I am often asked, “Why do we even need International Women’s Day?” Truth be told, sometimes I too wrestle with this question. But then I find myself at an event featuring an all-male panel on stage, or I recall the many years in which I was the only woman in the room or the only female director on a board of men, and the question is at once, unfortunately, obviated.
International Women’s Day has its supporters and detractors, but it is clearer than ever that both must work together to address the major challenges that we still face, as a society and as a country. Only once both sides collaborate to promote equality and slowly repair distortions and injustices – only then can we afford to forgo this important day.
Until we achieve proper diversity in positions of influence, we cannot give up on International Women’s Day. And until we eliminate all forms of violence against women, we cannot give up on International Women’s Day.
There is little doubt that conditions are improving and yet, disturbingly, so many forums still lack adequate female representation in 2022. This should unnerve us all because the best decisions are made when women are full partners in the decision-making process. Yes, when there is diversity at the table, women and men benefit alike.
I therefore believe that one of our major challenges as a society, and one of my chief missions as First Lady, is to do the utmost in order to promote women to key positions. We must strive for the full integration of women – in accordance with skillset, education, and experience – in all areas of influence.
But even as glass ceilings are being shattered, so many women find the ground shaking beneath them. So many women and girls do not feel safe in their own homes.
Change, in its most profound and meaningful sense, will only come about through a relentless all-out war on violence against women. Physical violence, first and foremost, but also emotional, economic, and verbal violence. Each of us has heard women being discussed or addressed in ways nobody would dare to discuss or address men. Be it public figures, influential figures, or ordinary citizens – the language has to change.
The burden of realizing this societal change rests also with us, women in influential positions, who must speak up and act on our sisters’ behalf. Indeed, as Dr. Vicki Shiran once said, “the feminist mentality is not easy for women,” but this challenge is ours.
Women are the engine that can push the train forward, on the way to full gender equality, and I am not always sure that we are doing enough. It is my hope that if we take appropriate action, work together and succeed in creating real change, who knows, maybe one day we really won’t need International Women’s Day after all. PJC
Michal Herzog is the First Lady of the State of Israel.