Every year, 8 March marks International Women’s Day – a global day to celebrate progress in the realisation of women’s rights, and to take stock of challenges yet to be addressed. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ’embrace equity’.
Equity requires more than just treating people the same. The concept of equity recognises that ‘each person has different circumstances and allocates the resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome; equal opportunities are no longer enough’. Similarly, formal equality would treat everyone the same, but fails to take into account pre-existing disadvantage, whereas substantive equality compels us to recognise and address several dimensions of multi-facetted disadvantage.
In this blog post, the Oxford Human Rights Hub’s graduate student team members share (in no particular order) resources which have inspired us to ’embrace equity’ – particularly in support of women’s rights – in the hopes that they inspire you to embrace equity too.
‘Through the eyes of my body, I see the world’s dominant and subordinated cultures’ – Savala Nolan’s book traces the experience of living at the intersection of ‘society’s most charged, politicized, and intractably polar spaces: between Black and white, rich and poor, thin and fat (as a woman)’. Nolan’s writing creatively captures the liminal space between being an insider and outsider in a revealing and thought-provoking way.
Formal understandings of equality focus on ‘like treatment’ – treating people the same. But they result, actually, in treating people who are disadvantaged unequally compared with their more advantaged counterparts. Disadvantage persists, even if formal equality is established in law. Professor Sandra Fredman’s articulation of substantive equality avoids this pitfall. The four-dimensional approach goes beyond redressing disadvantage. It also addresses stigma, stereotyping, prejudice, and violence; enhances voice and participation; accommodates difference and achieves structural change. Substantive Equality Revisited provides a framework for ensuring that laws, policies and practices meet the demands of substantive equality.
Women disproportionately live in poverty. How can we tackle the gendered nature of poverty? The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the seminal treaty on women’s rights, yet it lacks any specific obligation to address gender-based poverty. In her book, Dr Meghan Campbell explains how CEDAW can be used to tackle the global dilemma of gender-based poverty.
Legal claims of discrimination must be based on a particular ‘ground’ – an unjustified difference of treatment based, for example, on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, etc. But how should we reflect the harms suffered by people when multiple forms of disadvantage intersect? Dr Shreya Atrey argues for establishing ‘intersectional discrimination’ as unique category in discrimination law, in order to reflect the full complexity of the interaction and compounding of multiple forms of disadvantage.
This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in Queensland – where justice can look very different, especially for women. An injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history – one she had vowed never to tell. This is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.
In a charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class. She advocates social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting on struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. The commemorative edition includes a foreword by Lorde-scholar and poet Cheryl Clarke, who celebrates how Lorde’s philosophies still resonate more than two decades after they were first published.
Impactful feminist mobilisations have taken place across the globe in recent years, with significant numbers filling the streets of Argentina, Madrid, Italy and Poland. Verónica Gago’s book takes inspiration from these movements. The book is both a wide-ranging political analysis and a manifesto for radical movements seeking to change repressive laws and moral regimes. Feminist International constructs an alternative theory of power, aligned with the desire to change everything.
The task of gendered constitutionalism, according to Dr Ruth Rubio Marín, is twofold. First, it is recognising that constitutions tend to reflect men’s views of what is important in the community. Second, it is problematising whether, had women been the ones to draft constitutions, the ‘founding mothers’ would have had with the same idea of what really matters in a community, and how it should be politically organised.
Former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, Julia Gillard, leads thoughtful and engaging discussions with well-known female (and some male) leaders across diverse industries including business, entertainment, media and sport. The podcast highlights what remains yet to be done to enable more women to lead. Earnings from the podcast fund the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, supporting their work to create a world in which being a woman is no barrier to being a leader.
The tragic kidnap, rape and murder of Sarah Everard brought the issue of violent crimes against women – and the police response – into the spotlight. This prompted barrister Harriet Johnson to write ‘Enough’, a book navigating the complex relationship between the law, culture and public policy – and how they can prove ineffective in protecting women from violence. The podcast provides a great introduction to key themes in the book – a counter-narrative to victim-blaming tropes: ‘she provoked him’ (homicide cases), ‘what were you wearing?’ (sexual violence), and ‘why didn’t you just leave?’ (domestic abuse). Johnson lays out the systems which perpetuate stalking, sexual assault and other forms of violence, and provides a toolkit for people to do something about it.
Want to learn more?
- Read: International Women’s Day official webpage.
- Read: ‘A Better Future for Women at Work’: University of Oxford Human Rights Hub Journal.
- Listen: “…Patriarchal Mentality”: The Functioning of Equality Law in Crisis: RightsUp Podcast.