International Women’s Day: A Time to Celebrate Shared Progress for People of All Gender Identities

Oxfam America
3 min readMar 8, 2019

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By Emily Robinson

Emily Robinson in Jordan with Oxfam visiting Syrian refugees who live in the Za’atari refugee camp.

The world is at odds with itself constantly. It crumbles while it rebuilds; we break apart, then we come together. Everything is a mess. A beautiful mess. A scary mess. A dazzling mess. This is a time of confusion and of restructuring the way we relate to one another. While there has been much progress regarding the safety, opportunity, and balance and equality of experience regardless of gender, progress seemingly comes in waves.

As an Oxfam Ambassador, I’m painfully aware that women and girls still make up the majority of 1.2 billion people who live in poverty around the world. When I visited the Za’atari Refugee camp in Jordan, I learned that a mere 5% of all work permits issued to Syrian refugees go to women. But so many women in the camp told me that their main desire is not only to be productive, but also to share their skills, culture, and give back to their new community.

There still are deeply-entrenched gender prejudices that keep women — and society as a whole — from achieving the progress of which we’re all so capable.So, let me just say I am thrilled International Women’s Day exists. I love this designated time to celebrate the lives and work of women in the world. And while I identify as a cis-woman, I live somewhere on the spectrum. The spectrum of gender and also the spectrum of sexuality. And because I have been grappling with how I should observe this woman-branded day in 2019, it tickled me to discover this year’s theme: Balance for Better.

While this day should be a time to celebrate the women of the world, just as the theme indicates, it is also a time to celebrate this shared progress for people of all gender identities. Because feminism is not a fight for one gender, but a fight for them all.

On this International Women’s Day, I hope to reflect on what it means to be human. It is a time to remember what basic human rights have not always been given, and what basic human rights are still not a given. It is a time to ponder what our obligation is as people. While there is no place for the mortal savior, there is a need for shared humanity. For empathy, care, support, and aid.

How may we help this world in ways that are genuinely productive and not self-indulgent, and ultimately self-serving? Maybe the answer lies in the smaller acts of kindness. Or in harder acts, like listening. In being present when it feels impossible to find the time.

Gender balance stems from viewing all people as just that: people. How do we promote finding the humanity in each other, while also fighting for the legislation to protect our basic human rights? This is the challenge of right now. We must become the change, while inspiring change within those yet too afraid to see it. This is a time for us to pull back and think about the impact of words beyond sound bites, and the impact of our actions.

Emily Robinson with Rania, a 17-year-old Syrian refugee who dreams of becoming a doctor.

Thank the people, the women and others, who have helped and inspired you to fight for what you find just. And maybe take a minute and think about how you may be able to emulate that person, or those inspirational figures we admire, in your own lived life. We have come a long way, but there is so much left to do. Let us stay engaged, motivated, and ready to shape this world into the place we wish it were.

Emily Robinson is an actress, writer and an Oxfam America ambassador.

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Oxfam America

We’re a global organization working to right the wrongs of poverty, hunger, and injustice.