University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Women and the Struggle for Equality
In most of the societies, gender inequality has been practiced where one group is always discriminated and its rights being neglected. Mostly, women find themselves being the victims of discrimination, or they receive unequal treatment compared to men. Equality refers to the people’s right to be treated with respect, equal in dignity and consideration, equal basis of participation in any area of social, economic, cultural, political or civil life (Hill, 2011). All people are equal regardless of sex and should be equally protected and given right to benefit from the law. Equality is meant to ensure that people are treated in a way that their results are the same.
Equality can be achieved through ensuring that every person in the society is supported and have access to decision making, acquire resources, be valued, recognized and respected. As a result of gender inequality where women are discriminated, different organizations both governmental and non-governmental have been initiated with an aim of fighting for women rights. Women have also tried to fight for equality in different sectors through participating in areas that are dominated by men.
These are the entitlements and rights claimed for women in many societies worldwide (Curry, 2010). In many places, these rights are supported by law or institutionalized, local custom, and behavior, whereas in other areas they are ignored or suppressed. They differ from broader human right notions through claims of an inherent traditional and historical bias where men are men are favoured and women marginalized.
Issues associated with notions of women rights
Gender inequality based on women is practiced in different sectors of the society where they are given unequal treatment compared to men. Though not limited to, the right to bodily autonomy and integrity. Some of these areas where inequality is practiced include; right to vote (suffrage), hold public offices, equal pay or fair wages in places of work. Other areas involve right to own property, equal access to education, serving in the military, entering into legal contracts and have parental or marital rights (Gidden, 2012). However, women and other international organizations have been established with an aim of fighting for women equality. Though a lot of effort has been applied and some laws enacted in different nations as constitutional rights for women, they have not achieved 100% positive results. This has been suppressed by the fact that men are the majority in many sectors and are still holding higher ranked positions than women. However, this becomes a challenge for women to pass motions concerning their rights due to lack of support by some relevant authorities.
Effort to fight for equality
International bodies have defined gender equality in terms of human rights; this is based on economic development and women’s rights (Merry, 2009). UNICEF describes it as men and women enjoying same rights, opportunities, resources and protections. Gender equality is one of the UN millenniums projects that are intended to end the world poverty by 2015. Women struggle for equality begun many years ago when they realized that their rights such as right to vote, own property, inequality in work places, corporate discrimination among others have been suppressed and ignored.
Right to vote
During the 19th century, some women started agitating for the voting right and participating in government and the process of law making (Lawson, 2009). This movement supported by Helen Kendrick Johnson, whose prescient work woman of 1897 and the public had the best arguments against suffrage of women. This ideal concerning women’s suffrage was developed as universal suffrage that is today considered as women’s right. The suffrage is based under a convention intended to minimize forms of discrimination based on women. This agitation led New Zealand to become the first country to give women right to vote at national levels in 1893. Later on early 20th century many Nordic countries gave women right to participate in voting. Some countries in Latin America, Asia, and Middle East later allowed women to participate in voting by the mid of the 20th century.
Right to own property
In the 19th century, some women in Britain and United States began challenging laws that denied them right to property after they are married (Deere, 2011). According to the doctrine of coverture under the common law, husbands were controlling real estates and wages of their wives after marriage. In 1840s, state legislatures in both countries passed statutes that were referred to as Married Women Property Acts. These statutes protected women’s property from the control of their husbands and their husband’s creditors. The court also ensured that women are not forced to sell their property by their husbands.
Inequality in the working place
Women’s struggle to fight for equality was pressurized by the oppression they were subjected to in the workplace under capitalism. Some of the discriminations they are subjected to in the workplace include obstacle to promotions, unequal payment rates and harassment on the job. They started a women’s movement that resulted to enactment of Equal Pay Act in 1963. The act states that both men and women should be paid equally for equal work. This Act has not been fully implemented as their aim was to minimize the wage gap between men and women but it is still high. Women are also fighting against minimum-wage work. Nowadays, more women are working but receiving little wages as they are historically known to cope with such working conditions.
Women in the labor movement
As the majority of women are in the workforce, many are faced with needs such as family leave, childcare and maternity. This has forced women to struggle fighting for their rights as workers and women with responsibilities. They have tried to fight for their rights through the use of media and organizing industrial strikes. For instance, in 1860, women workforce in of shoe workers in Lynn, Massachusetts organized their first successful strike. In the United States, recent major victories in the organized unions have been among nursing home workers, hospital technicians and workers, and health care home workers. These jobs are predominantly occupied by women that show success in their effort to fight for equality and their rights.
Struggle for equality of all women is a political struggle. It involves a fight for basic rights and human dignity championed by women and a few men. The struggle has been faced by different challenges hindering effective implementation.
Social and cultural factors
Different countries such as Arabic practice traditions, tribal, and authoritative customs that influence democratic processes and politics. Such societies create a framework that effective public participation enforces and requires women to take up their traditional inherited roles. Women are confined to take the role of home maintenance and the assurance of family needs inside the house (Rawabdeh, 2009). This contributes to decisive manifestation of political participation in marginalization of women in favor of men.
Most of the women political participation has been hindered by social obstacles related to religion. For instance, in most of the Islamic countries such as Jordanian, there are some fundamentals of religion that restricts women from participating in political life (Charkasi, 2010). Though their Islamic religion allows and encourages women to participate in political matters, such religious fundamentals prohibit them by giving certain perceptions and ideologies.
Economic situation has a negative impact upon the women participation in parliamentary elections as well as in political life. The monetary costs used in elective campaigns and fee required to participate in the House of Representatives affects the women in lower, and middle classes. This hinders women from participating as it is more than they can afford. This case happens in countries like Jordanian where politicians are authorized to pay some amount of money.
From a political perspective, political environment leading to political life in some Arabic countries such as Jordanian have been disadvantageous upon women in politics. The election laws in such countries prevent women from participating in political affairs. This is an obstacle towards fighting against gender inequality as women do not get chances to air their views. These struggles and the challenges facing women led to the formation of international organizations that are aimed at fighting for women equality.
Organizations fighting for women rights
International Council of Women
It became the first organization for women to operate across national boundaries with an aim of advocating human rights for women. In April 1888, they organized a meeting for women leaders in Washington D.C. The meeting comprised of 80 speakers and 49 delegates representing 53 women’s organizations from nine countries. These countries include United States, Canada, Ireland, India, England, France, Denmark, and Norway. The council helped in ensuring that women’s grievances are heard at international level. Today it comprises of 70 countries with their headquarters in Lasaunne. In UK, it led to the opinion of legal equality to gain favor. This was through the extensive women employment in areas that were dominated by men during both world wars.
National Organization for Women
It was started in 1966 with an aim of bringing equality for all women. It was an important group as it fought for equal Rights Amendment (Reger, 2008). Though it was meant to guarantee women equal treatment, critics feared that it might deny women right of financial support from their husbands. The amendment did not last long as it was not ratified by enough states and died in 1982.
Women for Women International
It was stated as a nonprofit humanitarian organization to give moral and practical support to women survivors of war. It helps them in rebuilding their lives through giving them emotional counseling and direct financial support, training them where necessary, educating them on their rights, job skills training, health education and small business development.
National Council of Women of Canada
It is an advocacy organization of Canada based in Ottawa with an aim of improving women conditions, communities and families. The council is concerned with women’s immigration, suffrage, health care, mass media, education and environment. It helped in fighting for women rights in Canada being the old advocacy organization in the country.
Association for the defense and protection of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia
It was implemented with an intention of providing activists for women rights. Though the group is not licensed, it has tried to fight for women rights. The association has some set goals that include women representation in sharia courts and minimum age of girls’ marriage. It also advocated for women to be allowed to take of their personal affairs in government agencies, protection from domestic violence and forced divorce.
In conclusion, women are required to receive equal treatment as given to men. They have struggled for equality for a long time, but their rights are still neglected and treated unequally in different public sectors. The existing local and international organizations should be backed up with the required support to ensure equal rights and treatment for both men and women. Through the women organizations, some achievements have been made such as voting rights, holding of public offices, and ownership of property. As this is not enough, a lot needs to be done as equality among all people leads to economic development.
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