Expert views: What is the biggest challenge facing women?

March 8, 2019 - 8:46 AM
Women bang pots and pans during a protest at the start of a nationwide feminist strike on International Women's Day at Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid, Spain, March 8, 2019. (Reuters/Susana Vera)

LONDON — From violence and sexual abuse to gender pay gaps and restrictive reproductive rights, women and girls continue to face obstacles in achieving equality.

Women will need to wait 202 years before they earn the same as men and have equal job opportunities if current the rate of change stays the same, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap report.

Abortion laws are also under scrutiny in countries around the globe.

As Friday marks International Women’s Day, the Thomson Reuters Foundation asked a select group of women and campaigners what they see as the biggest challenges:

Annie Lennox — Singer-songwriter

“I think women and girls face so many challenges. The challenges are absolutely enormous in every aspect of their lives, globally. Whether it be to do with education, or healthcare, the right to have logistical protection over violence, rape, abuse – the list is endless.

Gina Martin — Activist who led a campaign to make it a crime in England and Wales to secretly take photos up women’s skirts

“We have to ask permission to be invited to the table to be able to even ask for this at this point. Trying to get rid of that permission and allowing women to just do what they want and push for what they want without having to be told they can, is probably the biggest thing that we need to change.

Ndileka Mandela — Founder of Thembekile Mandela Foundation and the first granddaughter of Nelson Mandela

“The biggest challenge for women in the 21st century revolves around the issue of choice – the freedom for women to choose who they become. We must support women to unleash the power to propel them to achieve that goal.”

Sarah Brown — Founder of charity Their World and wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown

“The biggest challenge for women is creating equal opportunities for boys and girls and that starts with education. About 130 million girls globally are still unschooled and for many others, even the physical journey to school can put their lives at risk.”

Shola Mos-shogbamimu — Lawyer and women’s rights activist

“One of the biggest challenges that we face as women is the stereotype and the societal perception imposed on us that we have to be a certain way to be a real woman.”

Sophie Walker — Outgoing leader of the Women’s Equality Party UK

“The rise of the right. The wave of national populism that we are seeing from the United States, to Brazil, from Hungary to Poland. These are movements that are about establishing traditional, patriarchal models, rolling back women’s reproductive rights, pushing women out of workplaces and back into the home and to protect men’s jobs.

“The upside is that it is inspiring ever more people, particularly women, to step forward to become activists and to understand that progress is not linear and women’s rights is always hard won and must always be protected and we always have to keep battling to extend them.”

Indira Varma — British actress who has starred in hit fantasy television series ‘Game of Thrones

“Storytelling and the arts were a powerful tool to inspire young girls and help shift traditional norms that may restrict their role. Only by sharing other women’s and girls’ stories can we teach empathy and fight the patriarchy and dogma that so often constrain them.” —Writing by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Reporting by Morgane Mounier, Zoe Tabary and Lin Taylor. Editing by Jason Fields; Thomson Reuters Foundation