International Women's Day

 

Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world's women?

The United Nations General Assembly, composed of delegates from every Member State, celebrates International Women's Day to recognize that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women, and to acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security.

EuthanasiaFor the women of the world, the Day is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development.

You might think that women's equality benefits mostly women, but every one-percentile growth in female secondary schooling results in a 0.3 percent growth in the economy. Yet girls are often kept from receiving education in the poorest countries that would best benefit from the economic growth.

Until the men and women work together to secure the rights and full potential of women, lasting solutions to the world's most serious social, economic and political problems are unlikely to be found.

In recent decades, much progress has been made. On a worldwide level, women's access to education and proper health care has increased; their participation in the paid labor force has grown; and legislation that promises equal opportunities for women and respect for their human rights has been adopted in many countries. The world now has an ever- growing number of women participating in society as policy-makers.

However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men.

The majority of the world's 1.3 billion absolute poor are women.

On average, women receive between 30 and 40 per cent less pay than men earn for the same work.

And everywhere, women continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.

How did the idea of women's day develop?

Towards the end of the 19th century, there was a lot of turbulence in industrialized societies with women increasingly demonstrating against oppressive working conditions, poor pay and inequality. This also coincided with the rising demand by women for voting rights in various countries. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared that February 28 would be celebrated as the first National Women's Day across the country. Until 1913, the last Sunday of February was celebrated as National Women's Day in the US. Fair wages and dignified conditions of work became the focus of many demonstrations by women. Russian women campaigning for peace on the eve of World War I observed their first IWD on the last Sunday of February in 1913. However, in 1913, a common agreement was reached and the IWD was transferred to March 8.

How did the IWD become globally accepted?

The United Nations designated 1975 as International Women's Year and the same year it gave official sanction to the IWD and began sponsoring International Women's Day events. All its member countries too started observing the IWD and women's group working for change in the status of women in these countries use the IWD to focus attention on issues about women's rights and to help push their agenda.

How is the IWD celebrated?

The IWD is observed in over a hundred countries. In many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cuba, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam it is an official holiday.

In China, Nepal and Madagascar, it is a holiday only for women. In several countries, it is customary for men to give the women in their lives, mothers, wives, girlfriends or sisters, flowers and small gifts on the occasion. In some countries such as Romania it is also observed as an equivalent of Mothers' Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. In Italy, men give yellow mimosas to women. In Russia and Albania too, yellow mimosas and chocolate are the most common gifts on March 8.

Some Quotations:

Mother Theresa, social worker
We are all pencils in the hand of God writing love letters to the world.

Virginia Woolf, British feminist
It's not catastrophes, murders, deaths, diseases, that age and kill us; it's the way people look and laugh, and run up the steps of omnibuses.

Nancy Willard, American poet
Sometimes questions are more important than answers.

Emily Dickinson, poet
The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.

Betty Friedan, social activist, The Feminine Mystique
The problem that has no name -- which is simply the fact that American women are kept from growing to their full human capacities -- is taking a far greater toll on the physical and mental health of our country than any known disease.

Jane Austen, novelist
She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older - the natural sequence of an unnatural beginning.

Martha Graham, dancer, choreographer
You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled then something has been lost.

Jennifer Aniston, American actor
The greater your capacity to love, the greater is your capacity to feel the pain.

Eleanor Roosevelt, activist
When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

Golda Meir, first female Prime Minister of Israel
Those who don't know how to weep with their whole heart don't know how to laugh either.

Abigail Adams, second First Lady of the United States
[in a letter to John Adams] Deliver me from your cold phlegmatic preachers, politicians, friends, lovers and husbands.

Bette Davis, American actor
Old age is no place for sissies.

Golda Meir, address to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry
We only want that which is given naturally to all peoples of the world, to be masters of our own fate, only of our fate, not of others, and in cooperation and friendship with others.

Mother Theresa, social worker
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

Sara Teasdale, poet
I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes.

Candace Pert, neuroscientist
Love often leads to healing, while fear and isolation breed illness. And our biggest fear is abandonment.

Muriel Spark, novelist, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
One's prime is elusive. You little girls, when you grow up, must be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, leader of Burma's democracy movement
The education and empowerment of women throughout the world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.

Maya Angelou, writer
A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.

Eleanor Roosevelt, activist
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

Jane Goodall, English primatologist
Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don't change.

Rosa Luxemburg, revolutionary
Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently.

Mother Teresa, social worker
We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.

Peace Pilgrim, pacifist
Pure love is a willingness to give without a thought of receiving anything in return.

Gloria Swanson, American actress
[quoted in the New York Times] I've given my memoirs far more thought than any of my marriages. You can't divorce a book.


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