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Toasting Women on International Women’s Day

Amber Kirtley is a graduate of Furman University.  She is serving as Communications Intern at Population Action International for the Spring 2009 semester.

I am privileged to live in a time and place where I can view the everyday world for women in the U.S. with a “glass half full” perspective. Because of the hard work of so many women who have come before me I see International Women’s Day as a day to smile, look at the world in comparison to what it was 100 years ago, and feel a sense of satisfaction.

Women have finally broken through societal barriers and gained access to what used to be a world of men. We now sit comfortably next to them, clink glasses, and celebrate our equality. Men and women alike take pride pointing to the exemplary women in every area, the advancement of women’s legislative rights, and the number of women welcomed into higher education.

However, amidst our celebrating, it’s easy not to realize that men are still drinking from bigger glasses.

Today in the U.S., women their first year out of college earn 20% less than their male classmates. Ten years after graduation, that number increases to 31% less. Looking globally, the gap between genders is much more shocking. Seventy percent of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty in the world are women. Women only own approximately 1% of the world’s land, and one out of three women will be physically or sexually abused in her lifetime.
Statistics like these are a harsh reminder that despite all of our accomplishments and optimism, true gender equity is far from being achieved.

It’s easy, especially for my generation, here in the U.S., to become complacent. We look at how far we’ve come and are satisfied when there is still so far to go. International Women’s Day should be a day to savor our victories, but the other 364 days a year should be spent focusing on making our glasses overflow.

That being said, I would like to offer a toast this International Women’s Day 2009:
To all the women, both at home and abroad, who have come before me who have defied stereotypes, challenged the norm, and sacrificed so my generation can wake up every morning and greet the world with “glass-half full” eyes, I thank you. But, don’t worry ladies, we’re still thirsty and I for one am ready for another round.


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