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International Women’s Day – Lorenzo Wareham

International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th in honour of movements towards equality and women’s rights. The first historical observance of a day celebrating women was held in New York in 1909, with the day eventually becoming adopted by the United Nations in 1975. Recent years have looked at the UN’s “Planet 50-50 by 2030” agenda. It focuses on sustainable development goals, in particular number 5, ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’; and number 4, ‘ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning’. Some key targets the UN aim to achieve by 2030 are to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, quality primary and secondary education; to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere; and eliminate harmful practices such as trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced marriages and female genital mutilation.

The theme for 2018 is #PressforProgress and is fuelled by recent movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, all striving for gender equality. With men still occupying the majority of leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, UN Secretary General António Guterres has said, "On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment."

This year comes after a resurgence of women’s marches similar to those in the early 1900s at the origin of the suffragette movement for women’s rights. Over the past two years on January 21st, millions of women around the world have taken to the streets to advocate for legislation and policies regarding human rights, women’s rights, immigration reform, LGBTQ and racial equality. Originally held in America in protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump, it soon became a more global movement with 5 million people worldwide estimated to have participated in the first women’s march in 2017.

International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world including the countries where COCO works. In Uganda the day is an official holiday to acknowledge the contribution women make to their families and also to promote the treatment and empowerment of women. This is one of the many steps Uganda has made to promote and safeguard the rights of Ugandan women, but tradition and customs at times contradict these moves taken against violence and discrimination towards women. At the heart of the problem is the fact that women are still considered inferior to men - equality will never be possible while this remains the case.

Pupils outside the newly built girls only dormitory.

Women’s economic empowerment is fundamental for strengthening women’s rights and allowing them to exhibit control over their lives, supporting women to access economic resources such as jobs and properties. The education of girls is crucial to this and so universal literacy and numeracy skills for all children, not just girls, should be a priority for today’s development agendas. Here at COCO we believe that every child should have access to good quality education regardless of their race, gender, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, disability or any other factor. COCO has made a big effort to ensure that schools are equipped to deal with the needs of female pupils, including hygienic girl’s toilets, building a girls boarding house and giving out small loans to parents to help fund girls education and training in enterprise and sustainable agriculture.

One of the biggest challenges has been to teach the community about the importance of girls’ education. There is a traditional mentality within the communities where COCO works, which has to do with the roles girls are perceived to hold within the household. This can be anything from childcare, cooking and cleaning which leaves little time for homework and at times comes as a priority over education. COCO wants to work directly with families to teach them about the equal treatment of boys and girls, so that girls are more likely to be sent to school and given the education they deserve.

You can support COCO as we celebrate Internationals Women’s Day on March 8th 2018 at The Mining Institute, Neville Hall, Westgate Road (near Central station). Join a host of inspirational women from across the North East to celebrate the successes of women. At the event we will be looking at how we can achieve gender parity and work to empower women and girls not only here in the North East, but further afield in East Africa where COCO works. We hope you can join us as we #PressforProgress.

You can register to be part of the day bellow on the Facebook event page.

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