Welcome to “Women Around the World: This Week,” a series that highlights noteworthy news related to women and U.S. foreign policy. This week’s post, covering March 4 to March 11, was compiled by Anne Connell, Becky Allen, and Alexandra Eterno.
International Women’s Day Tuesday, March 8 marked International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to recognizing the social, political, economic, and cultural contributions of women around the world, as well as to evaluating global progress toward gender parity. Millions of men and women observed the day with social media campaigns, rallies, and celebratory events. Pakistani women took to the streets, calling for an end to honor killings. The Taiwan Techmakers Association hosted a Girls in Tech event to recognize female leaders in the industry. Air India operated the longest all-women crewed flight in history, from New Delhi to San Francisco. The Economist released its “Glass-Ceiling Index,” an online interactive that illustrates countries’ legal treatment of women in the labor force. However, some events underscored the work that remains to be done to advance the rights of women and girls around the world: Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan came under fire for a speech in Istanbul during which he reiterated traditional gender roles, leading thousands to protest his remarks and call for policies that better protect and empower Turkish women.
Refugee crisis in the European Union For the first time since Europe’s refugee crisis began, the number of women and children refugees seeking entry to the European Union (EU) has surpassed the number of men: according to the European Commission on Human Rights, nearly 60 percent of people fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, and other destabilized countries for Europe are women and children. The shift in demographics comes as leaders from the EU and Turkey met this week to broker a Joint Action Plan to curb migration, which German chancellor Angela Merkel and president of the European Council Donald Tusk hailed as a “breakthrough.” According to some United Nations (UN) agencies and human rights organizations, however, the deal could further degrade already insufficient protections for refugees and may violate the rights afforded to asylum-seekers by the 1951 Refugee Convention. The groups have also expressed concern that governments are failing to protect women and children in particular, who are subjected to exploitation, harassment, and sexual violence en route as well as in refugee transit centers.
Population problem in Japan According to new census data released in February, Japan’s population shrank by nearly one million people over the last five years, and some women’s rights advocates have expressed concern that the decline could affect women’s rights and reproductive health policies. Japan has the oldest population in the world and the second lowest birthrate, and Prime Minster Shinzō Abe’s administration is concerned about the implications of a shrinking and aging population for the country’s faltering economy. Some members of Japan’s parliament have publicly spoken about limiting women’s reproductive choices as a remedy to the demographic crisis. At the same time, Abe’s “womenomics” agenda has pushed for women’s economic empowerment and increased participation in the workforce. As a result, women in Japan may increasingly feel competing pressures, bearing the burden of both raising the country’s birthrate and expanding the shrinking labor force, leading some to call for better workplace policies.