“If I die today, every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation.”
Late Mrs. Indira Gandhi,
Former, Prime-Minister of India.

Like late Mrs. Indira Gandhi, tens of thousands of women in the past and at present had contributed to the survival of human civilization, but very unfortunate, this group, which accounts for over half of world’s population is on the receiving end; and nearly every human society makes them look unwanted, because of socio-cultural, political, and legal restrictions placed upon them. From homes to public squares, from liberal to conservative, strictly, non-religious, close, open, traditional, and dotcom society, women’s travails seem to be same.  As one culture treats them as second-class citizens, another culture denies them basic rights male folks have and enjoy. As one culture confines them to yesterday ways of life through archaic cultural and religious practices, another culture is rolling back their yesterday’s gains through democratic process, un-conventional methods of attacking institutions that are women focused.

Violence against women is defined as:

“a violation of human rights and a form discrimination against women and shall mean all acts of gender-based violence that result in, or are likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering  to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Wikipedia.

Violence against women is “pandemic” or tersely put, global without borders; in fact, violence against women comes nearly in the same way, in the same format with the same denials.  It begins with denying them of basic rights: right to education, healthcare, economic opportunities, leadership, which in turn result in dehumanizing  them through rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, genital mutilation,  female infanticide, pre-natal sex selection, early marriage, force sterilization, abortion, prostitution,  and many more. According to World Health Organization (WHO) about “1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide had experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence…” the figure could be higher, if every violence against women is recorded or documented. Should 21st century still carry baggage of repression and denials, which women fought against in the 20th century?  Certainly not! Women jump-started 20th century with several demands beginning with right-to-vote; women believed nothing significant would ever happen on issues affecting them-if they were not part of decision making process.

And decision making begins with representation-by-election-the development that changed the course of history, as women around the globe shouted we must be heard through our votes. Australia-led the world in 1902 when women began to cast vote, followed by Finland in 1907; Denmark, 1915; Britain in 1918 for women over 30 years; in 1920, United States joined universal adult suffrage league; Sweden  in 1921; Spain in 1931; France, 1944; Italy in 1945; and  Greece in 1952.

What impact did universal adult suffrage create? Women were out of society’s created cocoon into more engaging activities, as barriers to their upward movement were broken. Like male counterparts, they could vote and be voted for, which changed the political dynamics of early 20th century and beyond. Nancy Aster became the first British female member of parliament; and Margaret  Bonfield, first  female cabinet minister.  In United States, Rebecca Latimer Felton became the first female senator in 1922, while Nollie Tayloe Ross was the first elected female governor in 1925 in the state of Wyoming. Across the globe, women were making significant inroad in politics, getting education beyond high school, joining entrepreneur ranks, participating in sports at national and international levels, engaging in science and technology, making careers in commerce and industry.

About six decades into the century-women had arrived. Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Ceylon, now Sri-Lanka became the first elected woman prime-minister in history; followed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi of India in 1966; Golda Meir of Israel, 1969; Elizabeth Domitien, Central African Republic in 1975; Margaret Thatcher of United Kingdom, 1979; Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, Portugal; Dame Eugenia Charles, Dominican Republic; Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway; Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan; Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh and many more. As of today, they’re more than ninety women among world leaders from Pacific through Atlantic to Indian Ocean. If world of mankind gave birth to women like: Chien-Shiung Wu, a scientist of note, who worked on Manhattan Project as Uranium enriched scientist; Katherin Johnson, a foremost mathematician, who calculated Apollo 11 flight path to the moon; Rosalyn Yalow, who developed diabetes test technique, discovered birth defect and invented radioimmunoassay-technique to study hormone;  Florence Bascon, an orologist; Cecilia Payne Gaposdikin, astronomer who discovered sun’s  composition of hydrogen and helium; Rita Levi Montakini , who made a breakthrough in understanding of nervous system;  Esther Lederberg, the microbiologist,  who developed a technique called “replica plating”;  Annie  J. Easley, the coder and software developer for Centaur Rocket series; Patricia Bath, inventor of device to remove cataracts; Rosaline Franklin, the biophysicist, a major player in discovering  the helical structure of mankind’s DNA, through x-ray of crystallography; May-Britt Moser (Edward, her husband) discovered  grid cells in brain that helps it make mental map; and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi- the French scientist, who discovered the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

These are just few women whose impact on modern civilization are extremely strong; time will fail me to list all women that had changed the course of history-people like-Marie Curie-the physicist, who discovered radium and polonium, a recipient of two Nobel awards; Marie Stopes-the paleo botanist, who founded the first birth control clinic in 1918;  Agatha Christie, a world renowned  author-who had sold more books than anyone-except  the Bible and William Shakespeare; Dorothy Hodgkin-the Vitamin B-12 discoverer-and decipher of insulin structure, and the inventor of X-ray. If women had achieved this feat in history-especially so, in recent times, why violence against them? Why denying them education now?  Why inflicting economic injustice against them? Why making financial gains through their biological and physiological make up?

Why the rape? Why domestic violence against them? Why being the victims of unjust socio-cultural and religious practices? The “why questions” are unlimited. No doubt, it is time for humanity to change their attitude toward women,  they will continue to a great source of joy to mankind, but  this joy could be more, if all restrictions against women are removed; if repression against  them are eradicated; if unfavorable religious practices abolished; more so, creating a level playing field for both males and females.  If mankind can do this now-for certainty-21st century will be the century of WOMEN.



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