Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The importance of international women's day

International Women's Day , originally called International Working Women's Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. The earliest Women's Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York organised by the Socialist Party of America to mark the first anniversary of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union.

In India, the working class woman has been left out in the cold while the IWD has been usurped by the middle-class that indulges in shopping, excursions and pampering. It is not just individual women who have succumbed to the marketing of March 8 and the consumerism associated with it. Organisations, too, have mellowed down their commitment to gender justice and gender equality and focus mainly on larger female gatherings as a show of strength, colourful banners, demonstrations on official protest sites .

In these large gatherings of symbolic celebration to mark the women’s day one can see the complete absence of new songs, different slogans, powerful skits and plays that connect to the treatment of women who are workers, farmers, teachers or housewives. The absence of the movement for women empowerment and a celebration of their contribution to nation building should be marked by a growing cultural footprint which is absent in these demonstrations.

Another aspect that has to be addressed through reflection and analysis is the position of the men. It is impossible to separate women’s struggles from the support by men. Patriarchy and men have to be differentiated. How many organisations working with women hold debates and discussions on this aspect of the struggle? The market is full of cards, flowers, jewellery, restaurant vouchers and what not proclaiming IWD but will these do anything for the daily wager or the house help who never gets any of these gifts. She may not be even aware that there is a day celebrating womanhood.

The concept of National Woman's Day spread to other nations and soon became International Women's Day. The holiday been observed on March 8 since 1913.

Appropriate for the current political climate Supporters are implored to challenge gender bias and inequality, campaign against violence, forge women's advancement, celebrate women's achievements, and champion women's education.

Education has the power to change women's lives, and moving money helps fuel this change. Western Union is collaborating with International Women's Day once again to support and champion a bolder generation of women through education.

The pay gap between fulltime and part-time male and female workers stands at 18 per cent - meaning women effectively work for free for 66 days before they catch up with men.

“Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”, where the goal is to accelerate the UN's 2030 Agenda of achieving gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls, ensuring inclusive and quality education for all, and promoting lifelong learning.Women across the globe are facing new threats, which risk dismantling decades of hard-won rights and derailing the effort to end extreme poverty, an international confederation of civil society organisations has revealed ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8.

The renewal of the global gag rule restricting US funding for family planning services is the latest of a number of new threats that will have a huge effect on the world’s poorest women.
It comes as progress towards women’s equality risks going into reverse, something that will make it impossible for world leaders to end extreme poverty by 2030, it adds.
“At current rates, the time it will take to close the 23% global pay gap between men and women stands at 170 years – 52 years longer than it would have done just a year ago. And, over the past five years, donor funding directly to women’s rights organisations has more than halved. All of this risks putting women’s rights in reverse.”
Everyone has a part to play in ensuring this rollback on women’s rights does not happen. Recognising that women and girls are equal to men and boys is crucial in the fight against poverty and inequality.
Yet gender inequality in the economy is now back to where it stood in 2008 and millions of women around the world continue to face low wages, a lack of decent, secure jobs, and a heavy and unequal responsibility for unpaid care work, such as housework and childcare.
Even in countries where the distribution is the most equal, it is estimated that women still carry out at least twice as much unpaid care work than men with an estimated global value of $10 trillion per year – more than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India, Japan and Brazil combined.

The insidious narrative that women are unequal and inferior to men has continued to play out in so many ways.
Consider this. The participation of women in the labour force in India is actually falling. According to the International Labour Organisation, the participation of Indian women in the labour force fell from 37% in 2004-05 to 29% in 2009-10, leaving India to be ranked 11th from the bottom out of 131 countries in this regard, well behind counterparts like Brazil and China.
How will India progress if 50% of its workforce is left out of proper employment?
When given opportunities, India's women have distinguished themselves in various professions, be it in social work, education, science, administration, law and politics. Despite the many prominent Indian women who have made giant strides forward for their professions and country, women aspiring to reach the top of their fields must contend with a harsh glass ceiling. Less than 10% of higher court judges are women and in India's lower house of Parliament, only 12% of the members are women.
Indian women lag behind on many indicators. According to UNICEF, adult literacy amongst women as a percentage of that of their male counterparts in India is only 67.6%. Statistics for women's health are even grimmer; prevalence of contraceptives use is only 54.8%, Maternal Mortality Ratio  in 2015 was 170 and only 37% of pregnant women had at least four antenatal visits before giving birth. Women often cannot even access healthcare without the signoff of others; a 2012 survey showed that four out of five Indian women needed the permission of husbands or families in order to visit a clinic.

What is feminism?

Feminism is the belief that everyone should have equal rights and opportunities regardless of their gender. Simply put, feminism means a belief in gender equality, the belief that both male and females should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender.

Why should you care about feminism?

There are various ways in which gender inequality is affecting every individual of every age, even you.

For example, if you’re a girl, were you told that you can’t participate in a sport because it’s a “boys’ thing”? Did you ever feel that when you spoke up in class, the teacher barely acknowledged your answer whereas when the boys spoke up, they were praised and encouraged to speak?

If yes, you know what gender discrimination is, and you know why feminism is important.

If you’re a boy, did people ever make fun of you when you wanted to play with your sisters’ doll houses? When you hurt your knee or scratched your elbow, were you ever told that “Boys don’t cry”, when in fact the pain was so much that the effort to not cry actually made it worse?

If yes, you’ve felt the restraining influence of gender norms — what society considers male and female behaviour, and the roles males and females are expected to take in society — and you know why feminism is essential for every individual’s freedom.

Gender inequality is limiting the freedom of people to act as individuals; it is trapping them within a narrow range of behaviours when in reality we could all do so much more and be so much more, if we were free to act without the limitations imposed by gender bias.
International Women's Day theme for 2017 - This year's  theme is #BeBoldForChange.
It was Pledged For Parity  in 2016.

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