We have just stepped out of a Women’s Day celebration and are already waiting for the next one. Just in case, you were sequestered enough from the scene, a Women’s Day is that one designated day in March, set aside by the UN to recognise women’s achievements and contributions. It’s the day the media showcases inspiring stories of women and it’s the day social activists pledge their support to women related causes. It’s also the day when the average man on the street applauds one half of the population simply, for being a woman. Faced with a day of such multitude, we women, do feel obliged to concur politely. After all, there’s this vague responsibility to confine to the group that we have been placed under. Women.
Historically, the first recorded Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909 in the United States and the date was not 8th of March, it was 28th of February. Women’s Day took the international status only after the Copenhagen initiative in 1911. Interestingly, the date was still not 8th of March. The date, 8th March gained importance only in 1975. The day was marked to promote the participation of women as equal partners with men in order to achieve sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. Soon after, violence against women became the prime concern and for the fourth time since 1999, the UN theme for Women’s day has shown concern for violence against women. The theme for 2013 reiterated it. “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”
So, now that we women have been grouped as one, one wonders how similar are our circumstances and how similar are our stories. What is the similarity between say, Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States and the teenager in Ghana (name withheld) who is staying with a police woman because she has been abused by a stranger and thrown out of the house by her own mother? For that matter, what is the common link between Zhang Yin, one of the richest woman in China and Rajani, the Sri Lankan mom who is locked up in an Australian prison because she is deemed a security threat? Did you say nothing? Look closer.
On the surface, there may be no resemblances, no common thread that is running through their stories; no common denominator perhaps, but beneath the surface, there are undercurrents that do resemble each other. It matters not, whether their origin is the same, what matters is that they all aspire similar destination. All women, irrespective of their situation, their standing or their education have that same desire to retain their identity, celebrate their differences and have a say in their own destiny. Some of them even want to rule the world sans the male contribution, but we shall not go there now.
Do we need a Women’s Day?
American businesswoman and philanthropist, Melinda Gates thinks so. “To me, moving from ‘celebration’ to action is why Women’s Day is so important,” she says.
Actor-producer Lakshmi Manchu says, “I don’t find any need for Women’s Day because if we are trying to prove that we are different from men on this day, I find it weird. What is the need to prove that we are different from men? What is the need to declare that we are different species?”
There are many others who share the sentiment. Some argue that women have come a long way, are cared for, are holding important posts and are well-educated, hence the need for a special day should be reduced, but then privileged women are not a norm. They remain a minority and remain unable to represent a big chunk of those who lament about the hardships they face, the abuse that they have seen and the bias that exists against them.
Being a woman..
That one question garnered a range of answers.
When correspondent Rohini Parwar asked a woman on ‘India unheard’ about the best part of being a woman, the answer was without hesitation. “There’s nothing good or happy about being a woman.” Many other women across the globe agreed.
On the other hand, Angela De Souza writes in her book, Being A Woman, “The heart of a woman screams for romance and beauty, to be free to love extravagantly and to live intentionally.”
Answering a question on the subject, Miss Universe (1994), Sushmita Sen had famously quoted, “Just being a woman is God’s gift. The origin of a child is a mother, a woman. She shows a man what sharing, caring, and loving is all about. That is the essence of a woman.” Even this answer had resonated with many women across the urban world.
Curious to know what people around me think, I posed this question to a few self- made women I know. An excerpt:
Nomita Dhar, Editor -in-chief of Sun Media says,
“Being a woman is being powerful. Our capacity and capability is beyond a man’s imagination, especially because we have the power to bring children in to this world and nurture them. Women have many avtaars and each avtaar has its own strength.”
Bhavani Prakash, Founder of Eco Walk The Talk says,
(Being a woman is) “a special honour conferred by the universe, to be a fountain of love, hope and compassion for her family and all of humanity. It undoubtedly comes with so much more responsibility, but the art and science of being a woman of substance, is do everything with self-effacing joy and a spirit of unconditional love.”
Founder of Social Change in Action, Madhu Verma says,
“The most beautiful experience is being pregnant and men will never experience that, even if they have a sex change!! NOT YET. Seriously nurturing a life within you is the most amazing experience as a woman.”
Madam R, an uneducated yet self-sufficient entrepreneur says,
“Being a woman was tough earlier, but has since become easier, for at least some women. Finally, it depends on how privileged a family you are born in to.”
What does it all mean?
One thing is sure, whether we are on the privileged side of womanhood or have faced the brunt of all things unfair, we are somehow in it together. In some way or the other; whether we want it or not, women will have to stand up for one another. Our successes will only be validated when the struggle of the women, across the whole world will reduce and then, only then, women, on the whole will thrive, will rise and will flourish. We women have to be the ones pulling ourselves up and helping each other along the way. Whether in rural India or in corporate corridors of America, the women all over have to move as one.
Exactly how do we do that?
American actress, Mae West once said that the best way to learn to be a lady is to see how other ladies do it. Great advice! We will do just that.
If you have missed my March Update, here it is again…
Organisation with a heart (March feature)- HEAL, Ahmedabad
Reading list- Invisible cities by Italo Calvino & The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
Movies- The Great Oscar line up
On the discussion table- Hegemony
Concern- Spike in the numbers of runaway kids.
Till next time. Stay inspired!