Significance of the International Women’s Freedom Day

Barrister Harun ur Rashid
The International Women’s Day was observed throughout the world on March 08. Many nations marked the Day as holiday.
The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2019 was: ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’. The focus of the theme is on innovative ways in which to advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure.
The day has been observed by women groups through oraganising street marches carrying banners posters and placards inscribed with the slogans in sensitizing the society for equality in rights. They also organized meetings and women’s fair in the cities.
This is also called Women’s Freedom Day because women are free to observe the Day in any way they like. In some countries women get flowers from the street hawkers, some with red roses or with yellow flowers from male relations.
Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind. From urban planning that focuses on community safety to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls, affordable and quality childcare centres, and technology shaped by women, innovation can take the race for gender equality to its finishing line by 2030 has been the aim of International Women’s Day.
It all started after the Socialist Party of America organized a Women’s Day on February 28, 1909, in New York, the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference suggested a Women’s Day be held annually. After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted by the feminist movement in about 1967. The United Nations began celebrating the day in 1975.
In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8 in Germany, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries. The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, In London there was a march from Bow Street to Trafalgar Square in Central London in support of women’s suffrage on March 8, 1914. Activist Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.
On March 8, 1917, on the Gregorian calendar, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, women textile workers began a demonstration, covering the whole city. This marked the beginning of the February Revolution, which alongside the October Revolution made up the Russian Revolution.. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia abdicated the throne.
It was commemorated by the communists in China from 1922. In 1927, in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, there was a march of 25,000 women and male supporters, including representatives of the YWCA, and labor organizations. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949, the State Council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off..
The International Women’s Day theme for 2016 was “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”.The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in his message issued on the eve of International Women’s Day said: “On the occasion of International Women’s Day, I extend warm greetings and good wishes to the women of India and thank them for their contributions over the years in the building of our nation.”
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 was “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”. In a message in support of International Women’s Day, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented on how women’s rights were being “reduced, restricted and reversed”. With men still in leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, he called for change “by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world”

Although much has been achieved, there is a far way to go for equality of rights with those with men.

[The writer is a former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.]

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