International Women's DayInternational Women’s Day is held annually on 8 March and I cannot deny that when I first read about it, I thought to myself oh here we go again, yet another ‘national’ day so the card industry et al can make yet more money out of a sham. But it seems I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It has its roots in American soil with the first nationally recognised Women’s Day on 28 February 1909; then surprisingly the celebration was adopted by socialist and communist Russia, China and Spain. China went one step further in 1949 and generously allowed women in China to have a half day holiday!

The Charter of the United Nations was signed in 1945 calling for international recognition of sexual equality and it has remained a central feature as the UN continue to focus on global political, social and economic inequality.

Finally in 1975 the Western World officially observed the day and designated 8 March as an annual celebration to recognise the advances that have been made; with not just women’s rights but the challenges they face personally and in commerce. It has grown significantly ever since and is now marked with a number of major events across the globe including festivals and workshops.

‘PLANET 50-50 BY 2030: STEP IT UP FOR GENDER EQUALITY’

Or in short ‘Pledge for Parity’ is the theme for 2016 which is in stark contrast to the World Economic Forum who have put back their prediction of achieving global gender parity from 2095 until at least 2133.

Three of the UN targets are:

  • Girls and boys complete free, equitable & quality primary and secondary education
  • Eliminate all forms of violence against women & girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking & sexual and other types of exploitation
  • Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early & forced marriage and female genital mutilation

The latter being particularly poignant for me having just listened to the BBC Radio 4 play Cuttin’ it by Charlene James, I realise one of the major obstacles in achieving ‘parity’ is ironically ourselves; as some women continue to exercise practices that are designed to please men.

Of course it has to start somewhere and education is the cornerstone of all civilisations, but how will it be possible to stop something that is so ingrained into the minds of adults who then force their beliefs onto their children? How can we stop the next generation from repeating the same mistakes?

As Tanya Barron of Plan UK said “the reality is that this practice won’t end in the UK until it is ended worldwide” and with mothers taking their young daughters abroad to be cut, it is going to be virtually impossible to police.

And you cannot ignore this family bond; it is after all part of the female psyche to forge strong links between mother and daughter and it is the strength of this bond that can stop girls from telling anyone in authority that their own mother has abused them. It is the same problem with sexual exploitation. People rely on the weakness and vulnerability of young women and girls to achieve their aim whether it is cutting or sexual abuse.

MOVING POLITICS ASIDE

You do of course need the politics and organisations like the UN to focus our minds on what is wrong but when it comes to doing something about it, it has to come from us, the woman on the street, the people who see and hear first-hand what is going on and when we do, we have to step in.

JUST ONE DAY?

To shout about women’s rights, their strengths, the ‘benefit’ of having them around?

It’s a bit like when someone dies, everyone sings their praises, talks about how the deceased excelled; then there are the regrets from people who say ‘if only I had done more of (whatever) with him/her’ or ‘had they been given that opportunity, they could have …’ but now the person has gone for good, it is too late.

My point is, why have just one day to recognise the struggles and strengths of a person? Why not highlight the worth of a woman all the time throughout the other 364 days of the year?

I will echo ‘Pledge for Parity’ but I will also shout out vive la difference! Because it is our difference from men that should make us stronger and we should protect that at all costs, whether it is breaking the bond between mother and daughter or removing a vulnerable girl from the only security she knows.

I salute our distinct differences and defy those who seek to abuse or corrupt that which they fear.

International Women’s Day – To Celebrate our Rights and our Differences

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