Guest article from Women for Women UK
“I cannot make up my mind about International Women’s Day – I love it and I hate it. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight injustice, inequality and the need for change, but we need to do that every day! Women’s rights are not just for 8 March, just like a puppy is not just for Christmas!” – Brita Fernandez Schmidt, Executive Director for Women for Women International
LONDON, UK – 6 March 2013
Why do we need an International Women’s Day? – After all, there is no International Men’s Day. The answer is not as simple as it appears at first glance. Why do we need one day a year that reminds us of how important women are to society when it should be obvious and we should acknowledge it every day?
However, having an International Women’s Day is also a sign of how far we have advanced in our strive to create a society where women and men have equal rights and equal access to resources. Why? Because up until recently, we did not have this day, or the right to vote, or legislation outlawing violence against women, the list is so long. For me International Women’s Day is a day where we should celebrate how far we have come – a day that symbolises that change is possible.
103 years ago a woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country on the same day there should be a celebration – a Women’s Day and occasion to press for women’s demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was created. Today, it is still a day where we call for change and for equality. And today, it is also a day where we are connected – all over the world – not just in the demands we make, but also in our celebrations of all we have achieved.
Because on this day the media can and will focus on women, it is an important moment to shine the light on women’s stories, their needs and the challenges and injustices we still face today. As an organisation that focuses on women and their plight in countries affected by conflict every day of the year, Women for Women International too will use this opportunity to highlight injustice, inequality and the need for change.
I would like you to think of the women in South Sudan, their hopes and dreams for their new country, and more than anything their hope for peace. And I ask you to reach out and invest in this hope and help us support more women in South Sudan on International Women’s Day. But I also ask you to do this after the day is over. Because unlike politicians who use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to make announcements around women and equality to have the box ticked until next year, I am going to tick the box every day
I cannot make up my mind about International Women’s Day. I love it and I hate it. I think we need more publicity about women, their role in society, their thoughts and experiences but we need that every day. I think we need more opportunities to connect worldwide and show ourselves, and of course the other 49% of the world population, that we are not alone, that there is strength in numbers and that if we connect, change becomes more possible.
So here it is then – let’s celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8 March but let’s also celebrate on the 9th and the 10th and all the rest of the days and let’s remind ourselves of women and their rights every day. In fact, let’s commit to that on International Women’s Day – that women’s rights are not just for 8 March, just like a puppy is not just for Christmas!
Read more about Women for Women UK at www.womenforwomen.org.uk.
Photo: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran