Last Friday marked the International Women’s Day all over the world. This year, in Norway, we also mark the 100-year Anniversary of women’s right to vote. Oppositely, in Saudi Arabia, women are deprived of the right to vote – and even to drive a car. Across the world, gender-based and sexualized violence are obstacles to women’s participation in society. About 200 million women are stated missing; many of which are victims of modern-day slavery; trafficking.
Establishing equal rights for all is of key importance in any revolution or reform. Female political participation will lead to less poverty, less corruption and is a prerequisite for a modern democracy to thrive and develop.
Violence against women in conflict zones is of a particular concern. When conflict flares up, women and children are those who are affected the most, although they are the least responsible for these conflicts. Civil society plays a big role in changing attitudes, but tackling this issue also requires political understanding and determination by the authorities over time.
Hence, a greater effort must be directed toward getting governments to realize that universal rights are in fact universal; and they apply to everyone, regardless of gender or background. Our support to countries, both bilaterally and through UN agencies, must depend on these countries’ ability to respect these human rights. There will be no aid without factual proof of the right to education, health services, and human rights. Reforms don’t transform societies if the reformist themselves don’t believe in the basic ideals.