Understanding Women’s Day Through Different Voices

International Women's Day is celebrated every year on March 8, to commemorate the cultural, political, and socio-economic achievements of women. International Women's Day was first celebrated in 1911. The day aims to spread the message of gender equality and promote a better society where there is no gender bias

“The celebration of Women’s Day is indeed important. However, to make it a day only about women, in today’s day & age, defeats the purpose of equity & inclusion that are the cornerstones of empowerment. We must also include men in this celebration, particularly those who have supported, facilitated and stood by us in this long, difficult fight. The sisterhood is indeed wonderful, but we need our supportive brothers too,” says Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Senior BJP leader, Women’s equity activist, champion & mentor; Former Chair of National Commission for Women (2014-2017); Director, India Foundation, Cancer Victor, TED talk speaker.

Women ought to be respected and celebrated daily

“The force behind every job done, whether by a man, woman or child, is the strength, compassion & support of a woman. Be it a house help coming to clean your home & cook meals or a man going to work without wondering how the baby would be looked after in the cozy confines of his home or even a child merrily demanding “Kuch accha to eat”… it’s all done either by a woman herself or with the support & love of one for the other. This is not to say that men are anyway less. This is to say that women like anyone else do their part in society, as well. Every task done cannot simply be measured by the remuneration one gets in hands of an individual, but it most certainly can be measured by the remuneration earned by the entire family, because someone chose to “Hold the Fort Until You Were Gone”. Every woman need not go in for a corporate job, become a doctor, or an entrepreneur to gain respect, of having made a mark. Yes, a worthy, equal, without any prejudice, opportunity must always be given to everyone to choose their path, without calling one career lesser/better than the other. A house help chopping vegetables, allowing you to get some time off your hands to do yoga, is as respectable a person as a doctor giving you a Covaxin shot. A tattered woman on a construction site is supporting her husband to earn more, as much as the woman going to work to increase the income of the house or even the one who stays home to look after little kids and aging parents. 

Each one in its way makes a mark!

It’s every day that women around us…our mothers, sisters, teachers, house helps, bankers, vegetable sellers, and so many more who aren’t even seen…make our lives run on auto-pilot, so smoothly. Let’s just take a moment to realize this, sink it in & remember that Every Day Is Women’s Day,” says Yukti Aggarwal Mahajan, Educator, Army wife, mother, feminist.

“Women are the strongest members of any family. They are far stronger than men in dealing with adversities. My mother was a supreme example. Why just one day. Every day in every walk of life is a Women’s Day,” says Vijay Lokapally, Former Deputy Editor, The Hindu, Author, Consulting Editor, Sportstar.

Women’s day is not merely about shopping vouchers or gifts

The paradox of celebrating one day as women’s day might seem absurd for some people considering the ground reality of the rise in domestic violence cases – especially during the pandemic, rape cases, trafficking of women. “Covid-19 pandemic affected the women population more than men in several areas, but at the same fighting against Covid more diversely as 70 percent of the health workforce is made up of women who are often frontline health workers. There has been a high spike in crimes against women during this pandemic, like domestic violence, sexual harassment, so there is a direct and deadly effect of a pandemic on women’s mental health,” says Syed Mujtaba, Child Rights Lawyer, Mental Health activist in Kashmir.

In day-to-day lives, women are denied their basic rights or opportunities and they are hardly respected as citizens or human beings. Though such celebrations may have symbolic appeal in raising awareness about women’s issues, merely commemorating women’s day in the fashion of distributing gifts or giving free shopping vouchers does not contribute to the elimination of patriarchal culture. Endowing gifts on a particular day neither empowers women nor draws attention to their accomplishments or does anything to reduce struggles they face in their daily lives; neither does it remind the givers of those gifts to challenge the status quo. “Women’s day is not about product discounts that are given to women to show their consumption nature rather it is a day to celebrate their powers, their duties which they administer and for all the sufferings and mental pressure they take that remains unrecognised till date,” says Dr Smita Agarwal, Assistant professor, department of Political science the University of Delhi. “I think people need to be reminded that if we are celebrating women on a particular day, it is so much more than just shopping discounts and deals among others. Substantial change is needed in society. It still needs a lot of work to be a safe space for women where they can thrive as individuals (not just someone’s mom, sister or wife) and that should always remain the focus,” says Mannat Kahai Singh, Practicing Advocate at Delhi High Court.

international women's day gender equality
Another banner at Miranda House | Credit: Varalika Mishra

Gender Equality is the need of the hour

For the year 2022, the UN given theme is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”, which aims to recognise women who are working to build a more sustainable future. When people of all genders have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities, we can term that gender equality. Considering the past struggles of women and how difficult it has been for women to establish that position in society, womens’ day can be a reminder of the history of past struggles and how empowerment needs to be nurtured from all genders. Everyone is affected by gender inequality – women, men, trans and gender diverse people, children and families.

“The wait has become longer, from 99.5 Years to 135.5 years. According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2021, another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity. Every year on March 8th – International Women’s Day – the world reaffirms its commitment to women empowerment. Yet, there remains a stark contrast between the roles, privileges and status of men and women. Partially because we have seen this as a one-sided issue and not a problem of ‘balance.’ It is time perhaps, to consider achieving a balance where both sides work in tandem towards a shared objective. We, at IPE Global, believe in creating a more equitable and balanced world and, pride ourselves on being a woman-friendly organisation where people’s capability is not judged through a prism of gender but by virtue of their innate potential and hard work. Let us pledge for Gender Equality today for a Sustainable Tomorrow,” says Ashwajit Singh, Founder and Managing Director of IPE Global Group, a social sector consultancy firm in South Asia.

“In the 21st Century women are going to lead the way and help uplift humanity. We have many such examples of powerful women leading the way. We will continue to shine and inspire a lot. If you are a woman and have been given an opportunity that women before you weren’t given then I feel it is your responsibility to make use of that opportunity and empower other women as well. This way we will break through all the glass ceilings and make our way to manifest our greatness,” says Himani Gupta, Co-Creator of Self Series. It is a platform that enables people to manifest their greatness through tools and techniques taught in Pranic Healing- a community for all those who are looking for self-development tools.

“Women’s Day for me is a celebration of our ability to rise above every social dogma that has marginalized us to date. This day stands testament to the fact that through decades of raising our voices in demand for equity and inclusion, we have set a path for the future generations to follow as active feminists,” says Swapan Deep Kaur Assistant Professor and Co-Founder of Tatava Connect.

“I feel if women’s day is celebrated, there should be a men’s day too- which never gets enough attention. Everyone’s contributions should be counted, when we talk about equality men should be recognised too. Since in general, that doesn’t happen- I’m not too attached to women’s day. Having said that, each gender has their part to play in the society and I feel women are associated with bringing open emotions into the society in the form of giving birth to children,” says Prerna Batra, Interior Designer.

“I have always maintained that socialisation is the biggest handicap not just in Indian society but also around the globe. This year, as the International Women’s Day theme is #breakthebias, I would like to go a step further and call it ‘Breaking the Bias’, a term which in my opinion signifies the need to evolve ways and means at an individual as well as state levels to continuously break all the inherent stigmas, handicaps & biases that are a direct result of rampant socialisation prevalent even in the remotest of corners. There is a need to bring about a change in the reference points used by women in their decisions making processes starting from the grass-root level,” says Jahnvi Sharma, Advocate Supreme Court of India & Co-founder The Virtual Lawyer.

“Women’s day is a day when all women resonate with the idea that we are already “complete” as humans. We expect our counterparts, the men, to understand this and deal with us accordingly. If women wish to speak in unison, we should first integrate collectively. This requires inclusion and social cohesion as the first step. Fundamentally, it has to begin from the woman herself. Break the stereotypes and biases and liberate yourself now,” says Supriya Rajmohan, an educator, author and student counsellor by profession.

To conclude, one can say, it is important to remember the struggles that women have endured over the years to fight for their rights and opportunities and it is still a long battle. Nonetheless, women need to be appreciated, empowered, supported daily and not merely on one particular day. Gender equality needs to be established where every human being can freely live their life with dignity and respect. Equal opportunities need to be provided to every individual regardless of class, caste or gender.

Varalika Mishra

is a Mental Health activist, author and a freelance journalist

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