Come March, we look forward to International Women’s Day, globally celebrated on March 8, every year. The day comes to remind us primarily of the fact that women are in no way inferior to men, though men and women play different roles in society, and that they have equal rights in every sphere of life. The day comes also to remind us of the great contributions women have made over the centuries and continue to make for the development and growth of the countries they live, and of the world at large.
The tradition of setting aside a day, every year, keeping in mind the above, began in the United States on 28 February 1909. The World Conference referred to as Socialist International, held next year in Austria gave the day international status.
As a follow-up to this, the first-ever International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, in countries like Austria, Denmark, and Switzerland where over a million people — both men and women — participated in different rallies demanding equal rights to women: right to vote, right to work including to hold public offices, all of which were surprisingly denied to women till then. This was followed up by women’s movements in Russia and elsewhere. Finally, the United Nations General Assembly set its seal on the celebration officially declaring March 8 as the U.N. sponsored International Women’s Day.
However, in spite of the worldwide and national-level celebration of International Women’s Day in our country and elsewhere, women continue to be discriminated against, exploited and ill-treated. The number of crimes against women and girls have almost doubled in India over the past decade, the gang rape committed on “Nirbhaya”, being a typical case in perspective. Practically every week, we hear of girls being thrown acid at for refusing to marry the attacker or resisting the sexual advances of the man concerned or similar such incidents.
This must go, and instead let’s learn to respect women everywhere, and treat them with dignity beginning with our own homes, schools/colleges, particularly on streets, showing utmost courtesy they deserve. Let’s also oppose any move whatsoever to portray women in bad light, particularly in films, commercials, street hoardings, fashion shows, etc. We also need to find ways and means to create public opinion against social evils prevalent in our country like infanticide, child marriages, forced dowry, etc, that degrade the god-given dignity of women.
Otherwise, annual celebrations like International Women’s Day, Day of the Girl Child will come and go with no impact on the society. Let’s make International Women’s Day, this year, a day with a big difference!
Alfonso Elengikal, SSP, has the unique distinction of being the longest-serving editor of The Teenager Today, an office he held for over 17 years. He is the bestselling author of You Can Make A Difference, You Are Destined For The Skies, Let The Real You Stand Up! and Discover The Hero Within You published by Better Yourself Books.