As part of the observance of International Women's Day this year, the United Nations, has chosen "Equal rights, equal opportunity: Progress for all." as its theme. Sadly, in large measure achieving these ideals is still very much a work in progress.
While to be sure, there has been much progress in the last few decades, women still hold only a small fraction of elected offices. Women earn pennies on the dollar earned by their male counterparts while juggling the overwhelming burden of caring work for no pay at all.
In parts of the world, women are raped and murdered when they go to fetch water and firewood for their families. Schools for girls are fire-bombed and acid is thrown in the faces of girls who have the temerity to want an education.
When women are raped, they are accused of being adulterers and are stoned to death or in other ways killed to salvage their family's honor. In many countries, young girls are still forced to undergo Female Genital Mutilation.
Abortion is still illegal, unsafe and/or inaccessible for many women and hundreds of thousands of women die unnecessarily from childbirth related reasons. Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be attacked by fellow soldiers than by any enemy and women, particularly in Southeast Asia, are all too often victimized by sex traffickers and forced into prostitution near military bases or are trafficked into domestic slavery.
There is a word for this and it is misogyny. Unfortunately, we live in a world where things mostly operate on the notion that power comes from winning battles and controlling resources and people. Implicitly in such a system, you can not allow those you want to control to become equal. And in this world, there is a long history of men asserting control over women.
The only way this changes is to redefine empowerment. Imagine a world in which we lay claim to power that comes from the worthiness of how we conduct our own lives and how we connect with the world around us, rather than insisting that we must control things. For there to be equality of rights and opportunity, that is the paradigm change we will need to make. And in doing so, we can begin to become fully empowered and leave the damage of misogyny behind us.