Be bold for change, women in changing world of work

Karl Lyimo

TODAY, March the 8th, is one of the more important commemorative days for humanity in the gender stakes in this side of Heaven.

March 8th in the Gregorian Calendar- compliments of Pope Gregory-XIII (1572-85) – is widely acknowledged as ‘International Women’s Day’ (IWD) in more senses than one!

To start at the beginning… International Women’s Day – or what generally passed for same – dates back to the Year-1909. That was when, on February 28, 1909, the Socialist Party of America organised a Women’s Day (of sorts) in New York City to commemorate (?) the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Originally called the ‘International Working Women’s Day,’ IWD was declared a national holiday in the Soviet Union in 1917 – and, thereafter, the idea spread to nearby lands and many Eastern countries. Ostensibly ‘inspired by (so-called) ‘American Socialists,’ German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual International Women’s Day – and was seconded by fellow Socialist and later Communist leader Clara Zetkin.

What with one thing leading to another, a conference of 100 women from 17 countries agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage for women.

On March 19, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland! Women demanded that they be given the right to vote – and to hold Public Office. They also protested against sex discrimination in employment. That was mostly in Europe, though!

In the West, International Women’s Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977, when the United Nations General Assembly invited UN Member States to formally proclaim March 8 as ‘UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace!’ Across the world today, the IWD focus is upon ‘general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women for their economic, political and social achievements.’

One notable result of a Women’s Day activity was the 1975 strike by women in the Iceland Republic (‘Lyoveldio Island’) which paved the way for the world’s first-ever female President democratically elected by universal suffrage: Vigdís Finnbogadóttir (born April 15, 1930; President from 1980-to-1996)!

Apparently, one intriguing offshoot of all has been whether IWD should be celebrated as a political baby, or as a social, gender-biased commemoration in History and in Life! Some analysts today tell us that IWD has lost its political flavour upon the Ladder of History for, “becoming simply an occasion for people to express their affections for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of ‘Mother’s Day’ and ‘Valentine’s Day!’”

In other regions, however, “the political and human rights theme designated by the UN runs strong – as political and social awareness of the struggles by/for women worldwide and are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner!”

Perhaps UN themes for IWD commemorations down the years may be a pointer – at least from the point of view of what’s probably the world’s most important multilateral organisation of all time: the United Nations Organisation! For example, some of the themes for different years (years shown in brackets) have been: ‘Celebrating the Past; Planning for the Future’ (1996); ‘World Free of Violence against Women’ (1999); ‘Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts’ (2001); ‘Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals’ (2003); ‘Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future’ (2005); ‘Women in Decisionmaking’ (2006);and, ‘Investing in Women and Girls’ (2008).

Others: ‘Women and Men United to End Violence against Women and Girls’(2009); ‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All’ (2010);‘Equal Access to Education, Training and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women’ (2011); ‘Empower Rural Women, End Poverty and Hunger’ (2012); ‘A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women’ (2013); ‘Equality for Women is Progress for All’ (2014); ‘Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!’ (2015); and ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it Up for Gender Equality!’ (2016).

Today, March 8, is yet another IWD, and the theme for Year-2017…? Oh, it’s a mixed bag of Shokolokobangoshay’s abracadabra: ‘Be Bold for Change’ –focusing on ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.’ Whew!

Historians remind us that “world leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Year-2015, placing gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Achievement of the goals – including ending poverty; promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth; reducing inequalities within and between countries, and achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls – rests upon unlocking the full potential of women in the world of work.”

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