Guest Blogger: Andréa James, The MATCH Fund Intern
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a single day to commemorate the courageous women who have furthered women’s rights. It is also a moment to stand with those social innovators, those gamechangers, and those shakers and movers who continue to fight for equality. Each year, the changing IWD theme tackles a specific issue around women’s rights. Reflecting the need for immediate action regarding the welfare of women and girls globally, the 2015 theme was“Make It Happen.” How do we use this and past IWD themes to measure our progress from year to year? More importantly, how do we build upon the momentum of IWD to engage new allies and audiences all year long?
Consider the 2009 theme – “Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women” – and fast forward six years to Turkish men marching the streets in skirts to protest violence against women, Afghan men donning burqas to publicly campaign for women’s rights, and Portuguese men daring to walk a mile ‘in her shoes’ – stiletto heels to be exact. These are but a few examples of demonstrations featuring united activism to end violence and discrimination against women. It is important that we take a moment to pause and celebrate these and the many other male allies who are fighting to “Make It Happen”.
Last year, the HeforShe campaign was a call to action for men the world over to share responsibility for women’s rights and to advocate alongside women. Influential male public figures such as Russell Crowe, Matt Damon, Prince Harry of Wales, and Barack Obama are a few of many who have stood in solidarity with women and girls to address global inequalities. The feminist ads during the Superbowl XLIX offer yet another example of the movement to involve male viewers in the mainstream discussion of women’s rights. Consider the #likeagirl campaign, which advocates for an end to gendered discrimination in athletics. Ads for the #likeagirl campaign were paired with public service announcements about domestic violence, calling attention to the proven 30% spike in domestic violence during high-tension sporting events.
The MATCH Fund’s own IWD campaign this year was a prime example of how men can be champions and leaders in the fight for women’s rights. Our board member (and Vice President & General Manager of Citizen Relations) Nick Cowling led the charge in a series of highly disruptive and provocative activations to challenge Canadian’s understanding of women’s rights around the world. Nick is our only male Board member at The MATCH Fund, and we continue to be amazed by the lengths he will go to draw attention to this cause.
Feminism has traditionally been seen as a women-only club, but it is incredibly encouraging to see men actively fighting for women’s rights. It is crucial to recognize that all voices are needed at the table if we are to make gender equality a reality. Human rights are everyone’s business, and united we can “Make It Happen”.