International Woman’s Day is over 100 years old. It’s a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. Although the focus of the day is on women, it’s not an anti-male event. Both sexes suffer from opposing ideals of gender roles. For example, women are still very much expected to raise children, while stay-at-home dads are stigmatized. Most societies cast fathers as breadwinners and mothers as primary caregivers. These roles are upheld by the gender pay gap (British women earn an average of 17.4% less than men in similar full-time jobs), unequal parental leave and mother-centrist family services.
The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York, and organized by the Socialist Party of America. Though it has been claimed that the event was commemorating a strike, researchers have found no evidence of this. The story that the day originated in a protest by women garment workers in New York on March 8, 1857, has been described as a myth.
In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Woman’s Day (singular) and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference.
Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including suffrage for women. The following year on March 19, 1911 IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office.
They also protested against employment sex discrimination. Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
2017 Theme: “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. The theme will also focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.
Some key targets of the 2030 Agenda:
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
The world of work is changing, and with significant implications for women. On one hand, we have globalization, technological and digital revolution and the opportunities they bring, and on the other hand, the growing informality of labour, unstable livelihoods and incomes, new fiscal and trade policies and environmental impacts—all of which must be addressed in the context of women’s economic empowerment.
The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation may feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality.
The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, great improvements have been made.
We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements
The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, and government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatrics performances, fashion parades and more. Many global corporations actively support IWD by running their own events and campaigns.
For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google often changes its Google Doodle on its global search pages to honor IWD. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status.
So make a difference, think globally and act locally!
Make every day International Women’s Day.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.
International Women’s Day: Gambian Women speak
As the world celebrates yet another International Women’s Day today, on the global theme: “Pledge for Parity”, and on the National theme: “women empowerment a sustainable development”, our reporter Halimatou Ceesay yesterday met with some women to seek their opinion on the importance of the day, and the way forward.
Ms Isatou Jeng, Programme Manager of The Girls’ Agenda and Advocacy and Campaign Officer Network Against Gender-Based Violence, said: “Every 8th March, the world celebrates women as critical actors in all spheres of life and development, who are holding half the sky and contributing immensely to move the world to another level of progress.”
She said despite their unflinching and tireless efforts, violence against women and girls continue to exist in all its forms.
Progressive movements across the world continue to champion issues of women and girls, which have registered some great successes, “but to be honest, more work needs to be done”.
“Today, we are celebrating successes registered, while bearing in mind that there are girls and women across the world suffering from traditional practices like FGM, child marriage, honour killings, sexual violence, among others.
“Violence against girls and women has its roots in gender inequality and discrimination, and the negative norms or practices that result from these.
“IWD is a day to renew our commitment as advocates and campaigners working to end all forms of violence against women and girls. I will continue to echo the fact that no one individual or organization can do it alone; it requires collaborative, coordinated and concerted efforts in achieving the world we want, which is equality and progress for all.”
She continued: “As a young feminist and a women’s human rights defender, I join the rest of the world in celebrating the joys of womanhood and again renew my commitment to continue championing the cause of women and girls to be able to live in freedom and dignity.”
At the Serrekunda Market, Isatou Njie, a vendor selling oranges, said the women at the market wake up early in the morning peacefully to sell their oranges and go home in peace.
As they celebrate International Women’s Day, women should be able to stand strong and embrace their family, including the husband.
She urged women to respect their husbands, even though some women are the breadwinners of their family.
To those women sitting at home doing nothing, she urged them to come out and fend for themselves rather than sitting at home.
She said that even if their children and husbands are supporting them, it is also good for them to come out and do business to contribute to the upkeep of the family.
“As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, on the theme: ‘Gender equality and women empowerment’, I would like to urge women of The Gambia to vie for presidential positions,” said Rohey Jadama, a reporter.
“For us to be equal and empowered as women we should be each other’s keeper; let’s support each other, because it is only a woman who knows the pain and suffering her fellow woman is going through.”
She also said leaders of political parties should stop using women as cheer ladies and encourage and support them to vie for leadership roles in politics.
“It is high time for women to also seat at the State House to rule The Gambia, and be represented equally as men at the National Assembly too.
“A woman was created from a man’s rib to stand beside him and be equal, not to stand behind him.”
Isatou Ceesay, a gardener, said the day is very important for them to come together and discuss ways and means of solving some of the problems they face, especially at the level of those women who are into gardening.
She said as women gardeners they do everything for themselves with no help from the government or other stakeholders.
They are responsible for buying seeds, fertilizers, digging wells, fencing and other farm inputs, which involves capital and can be devastating sometimes, especially for women who do not have the means to get the materials.
She added that women are really trying to make a living for themselves and their families, and all they need is help.
They hope that this year’s Women’s Day would not just stop at celebrations, but would also be an avenue where women gardeners will be considered for support.
Kujejatou Conteh, a food vendor, said she would thank God for letting her witness yet another International Women’s Day, and that one thing they could do as women is to tighten their belt once again, and work harder to contribute to the economic development of the country.
Women should learn to respect themselves and value their pride and dignity, she said, adding that those women sitting at home or idling about should engage themselves in a dignified way of finding their livelihood.