The 2018 Theme for International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress. It is a call to address in order to reap success. There is no need to have a party once a year, every day should be International Women’s Day.
In 1910, at a conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries, Clara Zetkin, leader of the “women’s office” for the German Social Democratic Party, tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day (IWD).
It was her suggestion that every country should honor women on one day, every year, to push for their demands. This was agreed on, leading to the formation/birth of International Women’s Day.
On March 19, 1911, IWD was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In 1913, it was decided to transfer International Women’s Day to March 8, and it has remained on that day ever since.
The day was only recognized by the United Nations in 1975, but, ever since, a theme has been created, each year, for the celebration. The celebration is not linked, in any way, with any one specific group, but unites governments, women’s organizations, corporations and charities, and is celebrated, worldwide, with arts performances, talks, marches, rallies, conferences and networking events — while calling for gender equality.
International Women’s Day 2018, with its accompanying #Press for Progress theme, comes rapidly on the heels of an unparalleled global movement for equality and justice and women’s rights. However, there has been a significant shift in the meaning and relevance of the day.
Is it really a day for celebration of the sort we now see? In my opinion, it is certainly not.
The day and date has shifted from being symbolic of the struggle for women’s achievements and gender equality, to an occurrence, where men are expected to display their recognition and gratefulness with fittingly “feminine” gifts.
Can International Women’s Day celebrate and empower women, when it depends to a great extent on men? The answer is obvious.
Currently, violence, discrimination and sexual harassment have seized headlines and public discourse, all fuelled by a rising perseverance for overall change. As a consequence, on March 8, International Women’s Day, the tinted, rose-coloured spectacles should be removed, allowing women to see what they do not want to see, or have neglected to see: the other 364 days of the year — reality; the truth of what is taking place, outside of coffee catch-ups, wine and cheese sessions and champagne drinking networking events.
The clarion has been sounded, March 8 is the day to step back and reevaluate the present society, and those around us. As women, we cannot press for progress if the path is not prepared.
How can we press for change, without taking into consideration our rapidly changing society?
While there has been considerable progress on women’s issues, there still remain a great many that are unresolved. In some countries, such as India, women run the risk of being raped while looking for an area to defecate. A single day doesn’t pass without someone committing violence against women.
Globally, we still remain surrounded by women who do not have the right to live, let alone the right to choose her outfit for the day. While IWD is chiefly about celebrating the role of women, it is also about crusading for change and then making that change happen.
As women, we must take the necessary steps at changing what takes place at the micro, macro and mezzo levels of society. Change should first begin in the home, where children are taught respect and love for each other, regardless of sex.
Notwithstanding, gender equality must also be taught in the home for change to take place and for all to realize a just and fair society. This is what International Women’s Day is all about.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.