International Women’s Day is one of the longest-standing of the international “days” which we now celebrate through the year. (Incidentally, the most recent UN-endorsed international day, which we may have missed this year but which, knowing the Ibba Girls’ School diet, will have been tacitly celebrated on 10 February by students and staff there, is “World Pulses Day”!)
International Women’s Day was first celebrated in Germany on 8 March 1914, where posters challenging traditional gender norms were banned. On the same day, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested during a march to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage. A demonstration in St Petersburg (then Petrograd) by women textile workers on 8 March 1917 sparked the February Revolution – Russia was transitioning from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, so 8 March in “new money” was 23 February in “old money” – and International Women’s Day has been a public holiday in Russia and the former Soviet republics since then.
This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, accompanied by a “balance” pose which we are all encouraged to adopt and photograph. The campaign highlights how gender balance will make the world a better place. The UN describes gender equality not only as a “fundamental human right” but as a “necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world”. Only when girls have equal access to education will women be equally represented in political and economic decision-making processes. Only when this is achieved will we equip women as well as men with the freedom to make choices about how they earn their living and how they choose their representative political systems. Only when this is achieved are we likely to see the policies required to protect women and girls, and to ensure that they are treated equally, enshrined in law.
There are of course many extraordinary women in South Sudan, as there are around the world. Many of them have already had considerable influence. But wholesale positive change will only be possible when institutions such as Ibba Girls’ Boarding School are able to promote gender equality and back up that claim with evidence. The fact that the top 6 scoring primary school leavers in the whole country in 2018 were from this one school demonstrates the marked difference IGBS is making and the massive potential of girls in South Sudan.
Thank you again to everyone whose support, financial and otherwise, has enabled IGBS to thrive - a small but crucial part of #BalanceforBetter in South Sudan.
Would you like to join with us to invest in the education of girls in South Sudan? £27/month will help cover a girl’s living and learning costs - donate here.
Mark Simmons, FIGS CEO, 8th March 2019