By PISA Staff Assistant, Leeann Ji
In 1975, the United Nations adopted a resolution that thrust women’s rights into the international spotlight by creating International Women’s Day – a recognition of women and their achievements celebrated on March 8th of every year to come. International Women’s Day not only recognizes the successes and courage of women, but it also reflects on strides made towards a more equal world. Although the world has made significant progress in advancing women’s rights since 1975, the international community still has a ways to go before we can call ourselves completely equal.
In Asia specifically, women are rising up from the holes that society dug for them and speaking out for their female peers. For South Asian women and later women all over the globe, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient, led the charge to support educational opportunities for all females, especially for young girls living in countries under misogynist regimes. While Malala’s story began in South Asia, her voice has spread across the globe.
Another Nobel Peace Prize winner from 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi obtained a victory after 15 years of house arrest in Myanmar’s 2015 general elections, which paved the way for the former political prisoner to move towards the presidency. Her leadership in the National League for Democracy existed not only as a milestone for women but also for Myanmar as these elections were Myanmar’s first openly contested elections in 25 years. Furthermore, last year’s general elections dramatically increased the number of elected women from 5.9% to 14.5% in the Union Parliament. A voice for the people in Myanmar and especially a voice for women, Aung San Suu Kyi has defied all the obstacles that the former regime had thrown her way.
While Malala and Aung San Suu Kyi exist as two important female figures in Asia, many other Asian women work towards equality within their own communities. At PISA, our mission seeks to promote sustainable development in Asia through strategic means – this includes involving women in the process. Women exist as an integral part of PISA’s collaborative work across Asia because we understand the importance of gender-inclusive leadership development. In 1997, PISA aimed to advance women’s impact on international affairs by launching the Women’s Initiative on International Affairs in Asia, a cross-regional network of women active internationally as diplomats, NGO leaders, scholars of international relations, and private sector executives.
International Women’s Day stands not only as a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the world but to also bring awareness to those women who do not have a voice. We should not limit ourselves to recognizing women’s contributions on March 8th; every day matters in the continuous progress towards full equality.