International Women’s Day

, by Giovanna Dughera

International Women's Day

When talking to (male) friends about International Women’s Day, celebrated every year on March 8th, I had long been used to receiving a plethora of understanding looks which meant little more than an acknowledgement of their utter lack of interest in the day which makes every female soul unconsciously smile. One of these guys, however, strongly expressed the opinion that the strenuous defence of this celebration was even detrimental to women in the long run. In his view, the need to reiterate every year how important women are in society proved the point of those who still consider women as objects or as beings of little relevance.

A bit of history...

Even though most women in the so-called developed world merely regard International Women’s Day as an occasion to show off and celebrate their gender pride, the underlying spirit is that of remembrance of the fights our female ancestors underwent in order to secure those basic rights women were (and maybe are) still not enjoying in opposition to men. History wants it that on March 8th, 1857, female workers of clothing and textile factories went on strike in New York as a protest against poor working conditions and wages. Moreover, the commonly acknowledged version wants International Women’s Day to commemorate the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which took place again in New York in 1911 and saw a death toll of 140 female workers.

Women’s rights today

There have of course been major improvements in the condition of women since the beginning of the 20th century. However, to those who are involved in organizations which act in defence of human rights it comes as no surprise that much still is to be done in favour of rights of women. Not the entire world has been touched by female liberation, and those countries which have seen the liberation movement rarely enforce sets of laws which fully protect the “weakest gender”.

The international organization “Amnesty International”, which has been active in the past decades for the enforcement, enactment and respect of human rights throughout the globe, has been working since 2004 on the global campaign SWAT – Stop Violence Against Women – concerned with discrimination, harassment and violence perpetrated against females. Many an organization, not just AI, battles against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and its most widespread practice, i.e. infibulation. Efforts have been made in order to secure a certain degree of education for boys and girls alike in male-dominated societies. Issues that are usually kept under cover because of the guilt trip that has always accompanied female abuses are now being revealed – an example can be Spain, against which Amnesty put forward a petition which requested that stricter laws be put into effect as regards domestic violence, which is the most widespread type of abuse against females around the world. This very Spanish example should remind us of just how feeble what women secured is. How safe is a woman who has to fear her own house and family? How can it still be so easy to hurt women, vulnerable as they may be, and remain largely unpunished?

Those are the questions that we all have to bare in mind, especially on March 8th. March 8th is in my opinion no different from any other day, but can be regarded as a day on which to draw balances of what has been achieved and what should still be achieved. In this sense, much can be achieved within the European Union, too. Even though gender-related discrimination is not anymore an impending issue to deal with, the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) acknowledges that we are still far from equality. The female presence’s percentage in the European Parliament grew from 17% in 1979 (when the first universal suffrage elections were held) to today’s 31% - a dramatic improvement when confronted with the same figures on a global scale. However, Holland lines up women which account for 52% of their European parliamentary delegation, and Estonia and Luxembourg display perfect gender equilibrium; but on the other hand, there are no female delegates for both Malta and Cyprus.

Conclusion

To me as a woman, International Women’s Day is not the day when the male counterpart should give me mimosas, but which rather offers the chance – for women and men alike – to wonder about rights’ balance between the genders. It can represent the occasion, as I mentioned before, to show off a bit of our inner feminine pride, but it mostly has to reiterate the will to continue the struggle for equality which started long ago – this year marks the 150th anniversary of the New York textile workers’ strike. Those women never battled in vain – and the strength they already showed 150 years ago be our incentive (women or men as we may be) to keep on with the good work and ensure a future of growing equality and even more importantly growing security for our mothers, sisters, spouses, daughters and friends.

Images:

- logo of the International Women’s Day 2008 website, check it out at http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

- logo of the Stop Violance Against Women campaign, check out more about the campaign at http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.a...

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Your comments

  • On 8 March 2008 at 11:28, by alexandre Replying to: International Women’s Day

    On this International Women’s Day, I sincerely invite you to watch this beautiful video by REM about Ang san su kyi… CLICK HERE

    A great hero that the world is going to let die.

  • On 8 March 2008 at 18:56, by Tom Replying to: International Women’s Day

    Thanks for the history ;)

    On this day, i would like to invite you to watch a video of Aung San Suu Kyi, she is a true hero and would deserve 365 of our days: the video here.

  • On 9 March 2008 at 10:32, by Milena Replying to: International Women’s Day

    Dear Giovanna, very interesting updating, and motivating to be involved and active in the direction of obtaining more rights for all those who are hardly searching for, male or female they are. Anyway, women in work and politics: please no more silly clothes, no more sexual blandishments, no more continuous complaints about too much responsibilities and too less time for our personal care or similar, and ! please ! no more sexual competition between each other... Now we know what does it mean to manage work and family and ourselves: if we really want to play the game, please act more evolved strategies, even if not specifically “feminine”. Love from Milena

  • On 13 March 2008 at 09:16, by kk Replying to: International Women’s Day

    The passion with which you wrote the paper tells us, with strong and sensitive words, we need women like you to continue our history so that the man understands sharing and complicity. Thanks

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