Monday, March 9, 2009

My Personal Reflections on International Women's Day (as Both an Indian and as a Woman)

Yesterday was International Women's Day ...

A day to reflect on where we have come in terms of progress in this world.

Unfortunately, I fear that the global economic crisis will have significant negative consequences in erasing many of the gains that women have made, both in India and elsewhere across the past several decades.

The fact of the matter is, it is hard enough being a woman when times are good, and you are living in an advanced industrial economy.

When times are bad and you are living in any of the many poverty stricken lands in this world, life can be truly be, as in Hobbes's words, "nasty, brutish and short". Indeed, we are seeing increasing reports of violence against women in India which only serves as a reminder of how much we have to go just in our own country.

Around the world, unfortunately, the news is not much better. The statistics are sobering enough:
  • One in five women worldwide suffer from rape or attempted rape
  • 530,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year
  • Of 1.2 billion people living in poverty worldwide, 70% are women
  • 80% of the world's 27 million refugees are women
  • Women own around only 1% of the world's land
  • Women are 2/3 of the 1 billion+ illiterate adults who have no access to basic education
These statistics are from a time when the global economy was experiencing unprecedented growth and the world was making great strides in improving women's rights. In the current global economic downturn, I fear things will become much worse.

Hurricane Katrina in the US has shown that the veneer of civilisation is very thin in times of great difficulties, and in any economic recession, it is always the poorest countries and the weakest people who suffer the most.

Yesterday was International Women's Day, but the days in the upcoming weeks and months and years, I am afraid, will be anything but.