How Women’s Fight for Equal Rights Has Advanced Equality for All Underrepresented Groups
Gender equality is not just a basic human right, but also a prerequisite for a world that is peaceful, affluent, and sustainable. Over the last few decades, progress has been made: more girls are attending school, fewer girls are being coerced into early marriages, more women are serving in parliament and positions of leadership, and laws are being modified to promote gender equality. Despite these gains, many challenges remain: discriminatory laws and social norms persist, women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership, and experience physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.
According to a 2017 survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF), women have only 68 percent of the rights, opportunities, and access to resources that men have. These inequalities, as well as the rate at which they are being reduced, vary from country to country. However, according to the WEF analysts, eradicating gender inequities will take 100 years at our current rate. In the fight for equality, women play a disproportionately large role. Here is all you need to know about how women’s fight for equal rights has helped to advance equality for all underrepresented groups.
The role of the women’s rights movement in advancing the rights of women and other underrepresented groups
The women’s rights movement, also known as the women’s liberation movement, is a broad social movement founded mostly in the United States that sought equal rights and opportunities for women in the 1960s and 1970s. It was part of the “second wave” of feminism and is recognized as such. While first-wave feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries focused on women’s legal rights, particularly the right to vote, second-wave feminism in the women’s rights movement addressed every aspect of women’s lives, including politics, work, family, and sexuality. Throughout the third and fourth waves of feminism, from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s, organized activism by and for women continued.
Achievements of the women’s rights movement over the years
- The women’s movement got more organized in 1850: The first National Women’s Rights Convention was held in Massachusetts two years after the renowned Seneca Falls Convention, which helped establish what the women’s movement would involve. The conference drew over 1,000 participants, and it became an annual event.
- State legislatures began to grant women the right to vote in 1893: Colorado was the first state to ratify a constitutional amendment allowing women the right to vote. In 1896, Utah and Idaho were added. Washington joined in 1910, followed by California in 1911 and Kansas, Oregon, and Arizona in 1912.
- Formation of a working women’s Union in 1903: The National Women’s Trade Union League was founded to aid in the formation of female wage employees into trade unions, so assisting them in securing the circumstances necessary for healthy and efficient work, as well as obtaining a just return for such labor. The campaign brought together women from many walks of life, bringing together a coalition of working-class women, professional reformers, and women from wealthy and renowned families.
- Access to family planning methods in 1916: Margaret Sanger is among the trailblazers of women’s liberation. She was the pioneer of family control methods after she experienced traumatic experiences of women with unwanted experiences. After seeing many miscarriages, self-induced abortions, and multiple childhoods as a nurse, she decided to provide a solution to this women’s suffering. She set up her clinic to control births in Brooklyn, New York. Nevertheless, she faced several challenges but her concept eventually grew into Planned Parenthood.
- The 19th Amendment was signed into law in 1920: The 19th Amendment was finally ratified by Congress in 1920, allowing women across the United States the right to vote and bringing women one step closer to equality.
- The Equal Pay Act was passed by Congress in 1963: Eleanor Roosevelt was designated head of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, and the commission’s report published in 1963 revealed that there was serious discrimination against women in the workplace. As a result, the Equal Pay Act was approved by Congress, to close the wage difference between men and women.
- Title IX, enacted in 1972, ensures that all students have equal access to education: Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana created Title IX, currently known as the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. It provided women with more educational opportunities. Gender equality was included in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but public education was not. Title IX had a particularly large impact on American athletics because it compelled high schools and universities to offer female athletes equal opportunity. The groundbreaking legislation is recognized for significantly expanding young women’s engagement in sports.
- Women’s Combat Ban Lifted in 2013: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to overturn a 1994 policy prohibiting women from participating in combat. As a result, the direct combat exclusion rule was abolished and gender-based barriers to service were also removed.
- Rethinking of the role of women at home: Although not all feminists advocated for collaborative mothering or even “seizing the means of reproduction,” it was evident that women should not be responsible for all aspects of child-rearing. Who performs the chores was also a part of the roles. Various individuals and theorists offered strategies to change the percentage of those who have completed certain home activities, and who carried responsibility for those chores as well. While feminism questioned the traditional role of women as mothers, it also fought to support women who were the primary caregivers for their children or the primary custodial parent. Feminists fought for paid family leave, as well as workplace rights during pregnancy and childbirth, including maternity leave.
Feminism transformed women’s lives by opening up new realms of opportunity for education, empowerment, working women, feminist art, and feminist theory. For others, the feminist movement’s goals were straightforward: give women more freedom, equal opportunity, and control over their lives. Others, on the other hand, had more abstract or sophisticated objectives. Whether in advancing opportunities for the underrepresented, shedding light on pay inequality, or pushing companies to adopt equitable hiring practices, the women’s rights movement has paved the way for equal rights for all groups.
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