International Women’s Day
“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. – Kofi Annan
The history that lead to honouring this day
The history of International Women’s Day observation goes back to 1900s – a time of industrialisation, growing work force and inequality at work place for women. The first women’s day observance can be traced back to 28 February 1909 as a tribute to the 1908 march of 15,000 women through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. No particular date was set for the women’s day celebration until 1914 but was celebrated almost every year in multiple countries with the same agenda in the conferences – equal rights for women. Two women leaders, German Socialist Luise Zietz and fellow socialist Clara Zetkin suggested the establishment of a day as International Women’s Day. In 1914, this day was celebrated on 8th March and ever since it has been celebrated on this day. In Germany, this day has special significance as it is a day to remember the struggle of German women to get their right of voting which they won only in 1918.
How is it celebrated?
Across the world there are conferences where world leaders especially women share their views about the status and right of women. There are debates over different issues concerning women. It is celebrated in educational institutions to increase awareness of this day and the significance of this day. The theme of IWD this year by United Nations is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”.
How is the situation today for women across the world
Though it is only one day in the year that we observe as International Women’s Day but the struggle to obtain equal rights is a reality every day in all walks of life; whether it is a white collared job or labour class or sports,the struggle of women for equal rights-equal pay-continues.
I believe there are still fewer women in top leadership positions today despite many well educated and qualified women. The reason is many women give up their professional life to take care of their children and family. In my opinion this mind-set needs to be consciously fought over by women first. They need to get over their guilt of not giving enough to their children and family. It may be a difficult proposition – work and take care of your family – but it is not impossible! I am not saying leave your family and pursue a career because a career without family becomes meaningless. But both can be done simultaneously. The thought will be incomplete if I did not mention women who have climbed the corporate ladder with absolute hard work and a zeal to excel and at the same time have raised their families well like Indra Nooyi (Pepsi CEO), Chanda Kochchar (ICICI CEO), Arundhati Bhattacharya (SBI Chairperson).
A stark contrast to such women is the situation of women in war torn countries like Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Uganda, Nigeria etc. where survival is the biggest fight and being a woman is many a times a curse. The list of atrocities against women in those parts of the world is a reality and gives a chill through your nerves when you listen to them or read them. I salute these thousands of un-named women for their sheer courage and determination to survive.
Daredevils like Malala Yusuf or our very own Jyoti Singh known better as Nirbhaya are women whose courage could embarrass the men. Their names are a constant reminder of the kind of perils women face in society.
What we can do
I believe the problem lies in the mind-set of both women and men. The conditioning right from childhood needs to be different from what has been practised. When we tell children to respect elders, a special mention should be made to mention women. Mothers must practice gender equality right in their house. In our society son’s hold a more important position. Children learn from observation…they are not taught. If we practise gender discrimination at home that spreads through the society because after all we are the society.
Mumbai Smiles’ contribution to the cause
The organisation is contributing through their project SEED which stands for Socio-Economic Development and Women Empowerment. SEED Project aims to empower women in the age group of 18-40 years from the marginalized section of society by imparting a set of marketable tangible skills to them through training in short term modular courses. The project has reached out to 1400 underprivileged girls and women since its inception in July 2012 and went international in April 2013. The project includes imparting training for retail sales, advanced computer knowledge, front office receptionist training and call centre professional training. The placement rate has been a noteworthy 72%. There are also self-employment courses like beautician course, handicraft and fast food training where the success rate is 40%.
The story continues….as does the mission….
Many milestones have been reached since the 1900s and many more are to go. It is a constant and collective effort of women to make place and be heard. We need to muster the courage to say what is wrong is wrong….loud and clear!!! Being a working woman myself I feel economic independence is paramount and in today’s times a building block to a strong foundation for a family and hence a healthy society.
By- Vishakha Yadav
Disclaimer- The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Mumbai Smiles.