March 8th, 2017 marks over 100 years since the first International Women’s day. It’s always been a big day on our calendar, but this year, it feels particularly important to come together. Today women are bold, brave and engaging in collective action against injustice- just as they always have.
We celebrate all women, in all their diversities. We embrace their facets and intersections of faith, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity. We celebrate those who came before us, those who stand beside us now and those who will come after.
Today is about celebrating women. But it’s also about acknowledging that no country in the World has achieved gender equality. Every day we witness violations of women’s rights, discrimination based on gender, and a lack of women’s representation in positions of power. Today is the day where we unite to call for a better, more gender equal world. It’s a day to come together and call on the community to do better for women.
This year women around the world have fought for equal pay, for an equal right to education, for the right to vote and for the end of tampon tax. Incredible women raised their voices to inspire us to do good, to inform us about the things we might not have experienced, and to highlight the potential we all possess to change the world.
Strong Women from all over the World can inspire us by their motivational words. Raising awareness of her Let Girls Learn initiative, Michelle Obama offered some powerful advice on education, when she visited the Mulberry School for girls in Tower Hamlets, London and shared an insight into her own experience as a black woman growing up in a working class neighbourhood and pursuing her dreams of university.
“In so many ways, your story is my story,” Obama said. “I can remember how hard it was to concentrate on my homework because someone was always talking, or watching TV right next to you. I often woke up at four in the morning, when the house was finally quiet, just so I could concentrate and finish my school work.”
She also spoke about her ambition and maintaining her drive to pursue her dream.
“The fact that I was a girl and that I was black, that certainly didn’t help things,” she said. “When I was growing up there were very few black women at high levels in business or politics or science on TV, so I didn’t have many professional role models to look up to, and I have a feeling that my experience might be similar, or familiar to some of you”.
“We want to make sure that every door is open to girls like you, and not just here in England, and not just in America, but in every corner of the globe. And that starts with making sure that every girl on this planet has the kind of opportunities you have to get an education and to succeed.”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg called for gender equality in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and business in general, when she delivered the commencement speech at Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in China.
“In almost every country in the world – including the United States and China – less than 6% of the top companies are run by women,” she said. “This means that when it comes to making the decisions that affect all of us, women’s voices are not heard equally.”
“We expect leadership from boys and men. But when a little girl leads, we call her ‘bossy’ in English, or ‘qiang shi’ in Chinese”.
“I want to make this very clear— equality is not just good for women. It’s good for everyone. Female participation in the workforce is a major driver of economic growth,” she said. “I believe your generation will do a better job than mine at fixing the problem of gender inequality. So we turn to you. You are the promise for a more equal world.”
Closer home we have ‘Gurdeep Singh and Daughters’ advertisement featuring Aamir Khan doing the rounds, where, the message about daughters being as special as boys is evident.
We must always remember that women inspire in more ways than one, whether they are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and even grandmothers. These are the women who make things happen. We have to just look around us to see how our colleagues, friends and family are role models in their own sweet way balancing home, career and every relationship around them. Women today are running countries and corporations. They are running businesses and raising children side by side. Even though women face many problems in life, they carry on and it is because they are committed and determined to make life easier for everyone else around them.
There’s a lot we can do. We can support NGO’s that are committed to creating life lasting impact on the women from underprivileged groups of society. We can learn to network with other women who then become a part of our support system. We must learn to love ourselves more. We must look up to inspiring women and also thank the “real men” who support us- Fathers, Husbands, Sons, Brothers and Friends.
WE all as men and women have an important role to play in reaching equality. Studies have shown that children with involved fathers are happier, couples who share responsibilities have stronger marriages. When men do their part to break gender stereotypes and point out inequality when they see it, that makes all the difference.
Alice Walker has said, “Resistance is the secret of joy”. The reverse is also true. “Joy is the secret of resistance.” We must be committed to keeping our eyes on a bright future, to stay focussed on the kind of world we want to live in and try to bring that world to life.
So here’s wishing everyone a Happy Women’s Day!!!
Rachitha Poornima Cabral
School of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya