For a long time, I felt ambivalent about celebrating a day set aside for women, thinking that every day should be a celebration of life, men and women. The reality remains that gender inequality remains prevalent in many cultures, some more so than others, and the history of this day is rooted in a demand that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands.
Be it equal pay, voting rights, fight against violence and abuse, social or marital rights, the range of issues all point towards a sense of oppression and inequality that needs to be tackled. Having a globally recognized day that sheds light on important, unaddressed issues under this broad umbrella ideally allows each country to customize the dialogue for local needs. Cultures and social practices still define where in the hierarchy women fit in, and what level of respect they can expect either through socialization, economic parity or through the legal system.
The idea seems novel but I often wonder about the efficacy of such movements. With social media, it is now easier to have a hashtag go viral, but what is the end outcome? What changes? I found several articles related to this question that point to the International Women's Day website, which lists global events, actual and virtual, that have been organized for the day. Interestingly, only 23 countries are listed, with the majority being First World countries. Apart from Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, no other Muslim majority country is listed. Several European and Scandinavian countries, Israel, Russia, China and other influential global powers are conspicuously missing from the list. Once again, I am reduced to asking, what does the celebration of this day achieve exactly?
I suspect the reason I cannot find easily accessible data on questions such as these is because it is difficult to quantify a return on investment (ROI) model from this initiative. Maybe it remains part of a bigger movement that serves as a reminder that women are important, that we need recognition in the social structure, that justice and equality remain a worthy pursuit. It helps to push efforts into understanding where the gaps are and what needs to be done. I found this paragraph from a 2015 article to be interesting:
"A 2010 study by market research firm Reach Advisors found that one group of women have managed not only to close the gender wage gap, but surpass men: the salaries of unmarried, childless metropolitan women under 30 are 8 percent higher than their male counterparts, a trend believed to be driven by the strides in education women have made. This finding also suggests that the decision to marry and to have a family may be in part causing the pay gap, as women struggle to maintain their career track during and after their pregnancies."
Asking the right questions lead us to actionable answers. As an example, in the developed world where the dialogue is more about wage equality than about fundamental survival rights, the above identification of flagging careers due to childbirth gives rise to better family leave policies supported at the federal level.
Mortal Journey With Equality
For average, mortal females like me who are overtaken with surviving life on a daily basis and may not have the luxury to introspect deeply about the injustice that pervades the lives of many of our sisters across the world or become a vocal activist, perhaps International Women's Day serves the purpose of digging into some of these plaguing questions and having a deeper appreciation for what we do have and how far many of us have come, especially when we consider the (unfavorable) social constructs we may have been born into. Maybe, by collectively sharing our assertive voices, we pave the path for others to follow. By being vocal about our boundaries we give our daughters the language to do same; we teach our sons how to respect the female voice. And we raise a generation that learn to do it better.
This year's chosen theme is #ChooseToChallenge. As long as we do not take our liberties for granted or become complacent with where we are, I believe we all choose to challenge convention in our everyday interactions in our home and at work, and push the human condition forward in ways we can.
Call To Action Through Poetry
I leave you today with a small piece I wrote for women everywhere. My reverence for the female journey is infinite, and as I fight my daily battles to protect my space in this universe, I pray for the same for everyone. May it be a journey of meaning. May we stand strong, and lay down roots for a better future.
With great power comes great responsibility, Which the patriarchy has abused And exploited.
Remember, the guidance suggests: “And for women are rights over men Similar to those of men over women”.
We are always meant to complement, Not just compliment. We are to be the missing half, Not just missing. We are to be equal partners in crime, Not just the victims of crime.
Let us not be the glass; Asked to remain transparent, Without a soul. Used to shield from inclement conditions. Shattered and trampled at will. Only to be replaced with another, Plucked from a factory line.
We are the iron that does not bend And will be a weapon In how we protect and defend Our fundamental human rights.
- mh. (c) 2021