International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day—a day to celebrate the political,
social and economic achievements of women around the world, a day to
promote political and human rights in countries where violence and
inequity still make life a struggle for women, and, in an increasing
number of countries, a day to express love and sympathy to the women in
your life. The theme for 2007 is “Ending Impunity for Violence against
Women and Girls”.

The
concept of an IWD was established in 1910 at an international women’s
conference, and the day was first officially celebrated by over a
million people the following year on March 8th in Austria, Denmark,
Germany and Switzerland. I am glad to know there’s an increasing
interest in International Women’s Day and that the UN followed up on their Declaration of Human Rights* with a 1977 resolution
allows member states to observe a Day for Women’s Rights and
International Peace on any day of the year, in accordance with their
historical and national traditions. Although there is an International
Men’s Day (IMD), it’s celebrated on different days in different
countries and is commonly seen to be a false parallel to IWD.

I
think I am very sensitive to ‘fairness’ issues and committed to
eliminating discrimination in all forms wherever I see it. Of course,
being a WASP, I don’t always see it and therefore need to be reminded
that the problem with discrimination (whether it is against women,
people of color, gays, the poor, the homeless or older persons) is that
it is often unconscious and unthinking—sustained by ignorance, denial
and ‘cognitive blindness’.

Bringing about social change at the
global level is difficult and can take a long time. But when the time
is right, centuries of injustice can transform in only a few years, as
we all witnessed in the civil rights movement. This is not to say that
when a paradigm shifts that everything is done. On the contrary. A
paradigm shift changes nothing in the circumstances, but it changes our
relationship to everything. That’s when the real work begins.

I
believe that women are the key to solving many of the most important
problems of our times. For example, in India and other countries where
empowering women has become a priority, women have had a profound
impact on the country’s capacity to confront and deal with issues of
hunger and starvation. Empowering women, or anyone else for that
matter, actually begins when people stop relating to their situations
as victims and take responsibility for their circumstances and their
future. By responsibility I don’t mean they blame themselves for being
discriminated against, but they accept and ‘own’ it as a fact of life
and use it as a beginning from which to create alternative ways of
understanding and new practices for relating to one another. For
example, I recently heard of a woman in Ethiopia who stood up against
her village’s practice of female genital mutilation and who ended up
enrolling not only her village, but the surrounding villages and
eventually her entire country in stopping this practice altogether.

The
ongoing injustices against women in many countries remind us that we’re
never going to have a world that works as long as half of us are
trapped in cultures and paradigms in which we are still victims of
historical practices and beliefs that limit opportunity, perpetuate
inequity and suppress our humanity. As it relates to our purpose here,
I believe women are the key to creating a world free of ageism, a world
in which who people are is more important than how old they are.

I
hope that each of us, whether we are a man or a woman, take this day to
reflect on who we are and the commitments we have or that we might make
which could bring about the kinds of changes this day is intended to
highlight.


* Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

All
human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.

0 thoughts on “International Women’s Day”

  1. Thank you for your comments on the plight of women around the world. I believe the world would look entirely different if the values traditionally ascribed to women were held in higher esteem. How could war happen, for example?

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