Today we will celebrate International Women's Day. The theme this year sets us a challenge as well as a deadline.
Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up For Gender Equality.
As women make up approximately half of the world's population, gender equality seems only fair, doesn't it?
Can we do it?
In the late 19th century, the demand for the woman's right to vote began with the suffragette movement in the UK. The crusade swept through many countries, fuelling the call for more women's rights throughout the Western world. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America organised the first International Women's Day (IWD) in New York City to honour the 1908 women's strike against appalling working conditions in a garment factory.
Since the first IWD, we have come a long way. Today more women hold positions of power; they are more visible in the boardroom, in politics and in the professional workforce. More girls and young women are educated and make their own decisions about their futures. This is cause for great celebration. We have made a difference.
But these accomplishments, though highly significant, do not point to consistent and international gender equality. They do not embrace us all. All over the world, girls are still married off as children or trafficked into forced labour and sex slavery. In many places women are seen as a commodity like livestock, to be sold or traded. They often meet with horrific violence in their own homes. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive. They are made to stand in lines separated from men in restaurants and cafés. They are forbidden to leave their homes without a male chaperone. They have been denied some of the most basic rights to choose.
And so our struggle continues to offer women the freedom to control their own destinies, to live without fear and to be respected for their intellect, wisdom, ideas and humour. We fight to combat inequality in pay, healthcare and education, and we battle discrimination and violence toward women and girls. We strive to give all women - from all cultures and countries - the right to be equal citizens of the world.
As I am of Bangladeshi heritage, I feel strongly for the plight of South Asian women.
Recently, in Bangladesh, a 22-year-old pregnant woman was brutally murdered by her husband of seven months. His rage was fuelled by the fact that her dowry was not large enough to sustain his pleasures. He beat and stabbed her while his family stood by. Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident. Stories like this are very common, but as a woman is seen as belonging to a husband, justice is often not served when she is subjected to abuse.
So how can we create gender equality by 2030?
We can learn about the history of women's rights and the purpose behind IWD. We can celebrate the lives of the suffragettes and the activists who helped us get to where we are.
We can also become more informed about the plight of women all over the world. The statistics of rape and violence against women are outrageous. We can find out more about discrimination in and out of the workplace as well as in and out of our own culture and country.
We can also donate to women's causes, domestically or abroad, or volunteer at a women's shelter, getting to know and reach out to women seeking refuge from poverty or abuse.
We can continue the conversation and speak out for the women of the world.
So on Tuesday 8th March this year, let's remember the long journey we have taken to get to where we are today. Let's celebrate our victories and remember the women who have given their lives to champion women - all women.
But let's also look past the successes and continue the journey toward a truly equal world, where men and women are not the same, but they are equal - where differences are respected and applauded and we work together to create a peaceful and powerful planet.
Let's take this journey beyond our country's and culture's borders and do all that we can to help the women who cannot help themselves.