Dhaka Courier

International Women’s Day

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Celebrating the women of Bangladesh: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a photosession with the sucessful women of different sectors at the inaugural function of the International Women’s Day in Dhaka. Photo - PID

Every public document and those of UN agencies proclaim loudly that there would not be any discrimination between but men and women but in the in real world the discrimination continues in many fields. Of all the discriminations, the gender-based one is most obvious and widespread. To attract the attention of all across the world, International Day of Women is observed to sensitize the people of all gender to achieve equality in status.

The theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) this year, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.

Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind. From urban planning that focuses on community safety to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls, affordable and quality childcare centres, and technology shaped by women, innovation can take the race for gender equality to its finishing line by 2030 has been the aim of International Women’s Day.

It begins with making sure that women’s and girls' needs and experiences are integrated at the very inception of technology and innovations. It means building smart solutions that go beyond acknowledging the gender gaps to addressing the needs of men and women equally. And ultimately, it needs innovations that disrupt business as usual, paying attention to how and by whom technology is used and accessed, and ensuring that women and girls play a decisive role in emerging industries.

It all started after the Socialist Party of America organized a Women's Day on February 28, 1909, in New York, the 1910 International Socialist Woman's Conference suggested a Women's Day be held annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted by the feminist movement in about 1967. The United Nations began celebrating the day in 1975.

Today, International Women's Day is a public holiday in some countries and largely ignored elsewhere. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood.

In August 1910, an International Socialist Women's Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen on issues on women, especially to look into the equality of women with men.

 Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual Women's Day and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, supported by socialist activist Käte Duncker, 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 (the main Street circling the city) and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the women community.  Women demanded that they be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment gender-based discrimination.

In 1914 International Women's Day was held on March 8 in Germany, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries. The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women's right to vote, In London there was a march from Bow Street to Trafalgar Square in Central London in support of women's suffrage on March 8, 1914. Activist Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.

On March 8, 1917, on the Gregorian calendar, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, women textile workers began a demonstration, covering the whole city. This marked the beginning of the February Revolution, which alongside the October Revolution made up the Russian Revolution.. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

On May 8, 1965, by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women's Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR "in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women's day must be celebrated as are other holidays."

It was commemorated by the communists in China from 1922.  In 1927, in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, there was a march of 25,000 women and male supporters, including representatives of the YWCA, and labor organizations. After the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the State Council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.

The United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day in the International Women's Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women's rights and world peace.

International Women's Day 2013 was "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women".[40]The 2013 International Women's Day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) drew attention to the plight of women in prison.  The UN theme for International Women's Day 2014 was "Equality for Women is Progress for All".

The UN theme for International Women's Day 2015 was "Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it. Governments and activists around the world will commemorate the 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an historic roadmap that sets the agenda for realizing women's rights.

The International Women's Day theme for 2016 was "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality".The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in his message issued on the eve of International Women's Day said: "On the occasion of International Women's Day, I extend warm greetings and good wishes to the women of India and thank them for their contributions over the years in the building of our nation."

The theme for International Women's Day 2017 was "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030".[51]  In a message in support of International Women's Day, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented on how women's rights were being "reduced, restricted and reversed". With men still in leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, he called for change "by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world".

The UN theme for International Women's Day 2019 was: 'Think equal, build smart, innovate for change'. The focus of the theme is on innovative ways in which to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.

The city-state of Berlin marked International Women's Day as a public holiday for the first time. "Give Us Women's Suffrage. Women's Day, March 8, 1914. Until now, prejudice and reactionary attitudes have denied full civic rights to women, who as, mothers, and citizens wholly fulfill their duty, pay their taxes to the state as well as the municipality as those of men.

Although much has been achieved, there is a lot to do and there is far way to go.

Barrister Harun ur Rashid, Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.

  • International Women’s Day
  • Issue 36
  • Barrister Harun ur Rashid
  • Vol 35
  • DhakaCourier

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