I always remember International Women’s Day because it falls on my son’s birthday, March 8th. But, I’ve never taken the time to understand the history and purpose of an event created just to celebrate our fair gender.
Until 2017, my year of outreach and focus.
Am I a Feminist?
Do I label myself a feminist? Not really. Am I of a generation that had certain expectations of boys and girls/men and women? Yep. Can I shake off those preconceived ideas? Some yes, some no.
At the end of the day, I am a firm believer that people should be judged on their merits and their character, not on their gender, race, or any other external element. We can be so superficial, so quick to judge others.
So while I do not label myself as a feminist, I believe women need to support and encourage each other. And we proceed as only women can. We can excel as ourselves, we don’t need to act like men.
Why Women Should Support Women
There are far too many women-haters out there. I, for one, cannot understand how and why some men think they are superior to women.
Look at the many who resort to cheap misogynist insults on social media. Some of these anonymous wackos make comments that are deeply disturbing.
Then, there are men like that Polish politician who recently claimed that women should make less money because they are “weaker, smaller and less intelligent”. If a woman is applying to be a lumberjack, I get that being physically weaker or smaller is a disadvantage. But less intelligent? Ridiculous! This is the type of man who would suppress educational opportunities for women to ensure that they stayed “less intelligent”.
And of course, the abusive and sometimes fatal situations perpetrated by men. Not going to list them here. You all have heard about them. Not just cultural ones in far away lands, but the ones in our own backyards. How about that current President who thinks it’s ok to grab women by the crotch?
So this year, even though I am not an activist, I want to celebrate International Women’s day.
History of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is over 100 years old. The day was first observed in 1909 in NYC to celebrate a garment worker’s strike where women protested for better pay and work hours. In 1911, it became an internationally recognized event in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland where 1 million men and women demanded the right to vote, hold public office, work and to end discrimination. Over time, it has become a global event and in 1975, the United Nations declared March 8th as International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day in 2017
The U.N. 2017 theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186 – 169 years from now.
International Women’s Day marks a call to action to individuals as well as organizations. There are formal events planned all over the world. You can see if there is anything in your local community by going here: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Events.
The International Women’s Day website tagline is #BeBoldForChange. They encourage every person to celebrate the achievements of women to drive positive change. And, they also suggest ways of taking bold actions that will accelerate gender parity not just on March 8th but every day. They include:
- I’ll challenge bias and inequality
- I’ll campaign against violence
- I’ll forget women’s advancement
- I’ll celebrate women’s achievement
- I’ll champion women’s education
The US is taking this occasion to participate in A Day Without a Woman. Participants are being encouraged to take the day off paid and unpaid work and refrain from shopping, to draw attention to the contribution of women in the workplace as well as the inequalities that they face.
In Canada, the 2017 theme is #EqualityMatters. The Canadian government has enshrined equality in the Charter of Rights (which I didn’t know) and is thus, committed to upholding gender equality in Canadian society. I’m proud of this! But, in practice, this not the case. Women continue to be under-represented in politics and senior leadership roles. They still earn less but are responsible for more. And, they still often fall victim to gender-based violence.
How I will celebrate
Let me say again that I have never been an activist, nor am I even particularly political. If anything, I am sadly apathetic. But, I’m feeling a real need to make a difference in some way, but in a way that is genuine for me.
- I will champion Women’s Education in my new volunteer role as Global Program Coordinator (more on this at a later date)
- I will attend women’s networking events in my community
- I will find at least 2 other ways to personally help women in need
It’s only a start. I will continue to celebrate women all year.