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March 8 2018

5 Things Women Cannot Do in Some Countries on International Women's Day

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Today, we mark another International Women's Day highlighting the achievements women have made and the work still to be done to ensure that every woman has freedoms, rights, and opportunity.

International Women's Day is rooted in securing rights for female workers and citizensProtections and equal treatment have been won over the years by women and men who would not take 'no' for an answer.  

Here in the U.S., women can easily hold a job, buy our own house, have a credit card in our name, run for office, hang out with male friends or colleagues, and live by ourselves.

We've had women serve in nearly every level of government and more women vote today than men. There are dozens of female CEOs on Fortune's 500. There are more women earning college degrees today and women are the fast-growing demographic of business owners.

Globally, women have advanced as well, but there are many pockets of severe inequality of basic human rights, freedoms, and choices for women.

Here are 5 things women in some countries cannot do because of law, custom, or culture:

  1. Learn to read. Some 493 million adult women are illiterate and they account for almost two-thirds of the world’s 774 million illiterate adults. Illiteracy leaves women in poverty and is linked to other issues such as child marriage and maternal mortality. For example, the United Nations estimates that if all women in sub-Saharan Africa completed their primary education, maternal mortality would fall by 70 percent. And if all girls had secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, child marriage would fall by 64 percent.

  2. Choose to marryNot every woman has a love story of meeting, falling in love with, and choosing to marry a man. Approximately 15 million girls are married before they even turn 18 in what's called forced or child marriageChild marriages can have negative impacts on a girl's educational attainment, lifetime earnings, and health. Globally, rates are falling, but there are hundreds of millions of women alive today who were married as a child are living with the consequences.

  3. Drive a carSaudi Arabia is the only country that currently does not permit women to drive, but thankfully that prohibition is months away from ending. A royal decree issued last year lifts the ban on women driving and will allow them to apply for driver's licenses without the permission of a man. Beyond the freedom of the road, driving opens work opportunities that can help more women join the workforce.

  4. Ride a Bike. In North Korea, women are banned from riding bicycles because leader Kim Jung Un thought it would be too suggestive, but enforcement is not necessarily upheld. Similarly, Iran's supreme leader issued a fatwa that women were not allowed to cycle in public citing it as a moral threat. Women of Iran have taken to social media with pictures of their counter-protest.

  5. Wear pants. Last December, two dozen women were arrested and charged for wearing pants at a party in Sudan. The charges were dropped for these women, but vague decency laws target pants wearing among Sudanese women and they carry real consequences including flogging and fines which the international community is fighting.  

Despite so many hard-won achievements for women in the U.S., our nation is not perfect when it comes to equal treatment of women and greater representation of women. However, a young woman has much more opportunity and freedom here than young women in many other nations.

As we celebrate solidarity, we should focus our attention on helping our sisters secure rights and be able to exercise agency over their lives  

Happy International Women's Day!

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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