International women’s day-the struggle of a century for equality

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By Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

08 March 2010: 8th March every year is being observed as the International Women’s Day all over the world. Few causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women. The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. Since then, the United Nations has helped in creating a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.

In the year 1975, the United Nations proposed to observe the ’International Women’s Year’. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming that a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace be observed on any day of the year by Member States in accordance with their historical and national traditions. Thus, majority of the countries around the world began the practice of celebrating the International Women’s Day on 8th March every year by holding large-scale events that honour women’s achievements and progress. 

The movement for the improvement of the status of women and to achieve some kind of equality with men had its beginning during the first decade of the twentieth century.   It was in 1908 that the women working in the garment factory in New York in the United States demanded improved condition of work and better wages as well as the right to vote. Two years later in 1910 at the International Conference of Working Women held at Copenhagen in Denmark that the proposal  of observing ‘Women’s Day’ every year was put forward and in 1911 for the first time International Women’s Day was observed in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19th March.

The women in Europe were in the forefront of the movement for peace and improvement of their condition. On the eve of the First World War, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913 during which they campaigned for peace. In 1913, following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8th March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since. As the First World War was in progress, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in the War. Following the overthrow of the Russian Czar by the Revolution in March 1917, the Provisional Government of Russia granted the Russian women the right to vote.

Over the past century there had been a significant change in the condition and thoughts of women. The attitude of the society towards the idea of women’s equality and emancipation has also undergone certain amount of change. With more and more women acquiring education, occupying important positions in business and politics and even joining armed forces one could think that women have gained true equality. The fact that there have been women prime ministers and presidents, female astronauts, etc. apparently indicates that women have real choices. However, the unfortunate fact is that compared to men, women are still not paid equal wages as their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and status in the society are still far from anything but equal.

In some of the developed and most of the developing and underdeveloped countries, the condition of millions of women continues to remain pathetic in terms of education, health and economic, social and political empowerment. In India, thousands of young women have been harassed for dowry and even murdered or forced to commit suicide.  In many countries honour killing of women still goes on unabated. In many of the African countries female genital mutilation is being carried out. Violence and rape against women have been the common factor in most of the countries of the world. Universal education of girls in many developing and underdeveloped countries is still a far cry.

It is expected that on Monday, 8th march 2010, Indian women might be rewarded by the Indian Parliament on the occasion of the International Women’s Day by unanimously passing the Women’s Reservation Bill which would ensure 33 per cent reservation of seats for the women in the Lok Sabha. This bill has been pending before the Parliament for the last14 years due to lack of political will on the part of some of the political parties with strong patriarchal roots. They had been using all possible tactics to delay the passage of the bill on the pretext of providing reservation within reservation for women belonging to minority, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities. However, those parties who speak of empowering the women should at least forget their political differences and pass the bill so that in the centenary year of the beginning of the idea of International Women’s Day, India would show the world that it is seriously concerned about the political empowerment of women by granting 33 per cent reservation for the women in the Lok Sabha.

In spite of many problems that the women face throughout the world, one can clearly see that during the past century the women have achieved quite a lot and comparatively their condition and position in society have been considerably enhanced. The United Nations as well as the constitutions of different countries has given equal opportunities to women in every field of human activity. If many women around the world have not been able to avail the facilities to improve their lot, the reason lies in their traditional conservative roots, religious obscurantism and social norms that prevent them from achieving equal rights with men. The observation of the International Women’s Day year after year would definitely help in empowering the women and attain their rightful place in the society.


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Comments on this Article
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Mon, March-8-2010, 3:22
Nice article and the simple language. May women get equal rights surpasiing all odds of religious, traditional and tribal beliefs
Jennifer, Bantakal/Doha Mon, March-8-2010, 2:40
Women do not need reservations. It is the outlook of the Society need a change towards women empowerment.
Therese dalmeida, Moodubelle/ Doha Mon, March-8-2010, 1:30
Well informed article, Thanks to Dr. Eugine.Congratulations to all women around the world on this special day.
Victor D Souza, Moodubelle / Doha Sun, March-7-2010, 1:14
Let us hope that the bill on 33 per cent reservation for the women in the Lok Sabha will get passed. Fantastic article Dr. Eugene.
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