Celebrating Women’s Day
I awoke today like any other day; groggy, half-asleep half-awake and in desperate need of that daily “cup of ambition” (thanks for the expression Dolly). I, like many of us I imagine, remained blissfully unaware that today, the 8th March, is in fact International Women’s Day. I know that as South Africans we are special in that we have our own uniquely South African National Woman’s Day that is celebrated each year on the 9th August. South Africa’s Woman’s Day commemorates the day in 1956 when tens of thousands of ordinary South African women took to the streets and marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the “pass laws” – laws that were put in place to restrict the freedom of movement of black people in South Africa. Since then the protest cry of “You strike a woman, you strike a rock” has come to symbolise South African women’s strength and courage. South Africans are generally mindful of our national holiday celebrating the female population. But had it not been for the vast wealth of information that is the internet, I would have had my caffeine boost this morning, continued on with my day, and not been any the wiser that in many parts of our planet today various festivities and ceremonies and are taking place to celebrate and applaud all the women in our lives. A small amount of research reveals that International Women’s Day began in the early 1900’s as a socialist political event. This was a time when women started demanding equality with their male counterparts. Women were starting to demand better working conditions, higher pay and most importantly (in my opinion at least) the right to vote. This significant shift of mindset began about one hundred years ago. So it’s been a hundred years since women began calling for deserved recognition and basically to be treated the same way that men are treated in the world and to be given the same rights and opportunities that men are provided. A great deal of progress has been made in these last 100 years but the question remains, “are we there yet?” Looking around the world today one might be forgiven for thinking that women have indeed “made it”. There are female heads of state (think Johanna Sigurthardottir, not only Iceland’s first female prime minister but also the world’s first openly lesbian head of government), successful businesswomen who top the list of the world’s most powerful (everyone knows and loves Oprah) as well as global icons who dictate trends that millions seem to follow (I see legions of Gaga fans following the pop princess’s every word). These kinds of prominent women are obvious to most. But what about the single mother struggling to make ends meet? Or the throngs of helpless AIDS orphans scattered across the world, but particularly throughout Africa? I think that while there have been unquestionable strides made in terms of women’s equality; I see that we’re not there just yet. The world is still heavily male-dominated and it’s much harder for women to achieve the same things that men do. There is universally still an ungodly amount of domestic violence against women and children. And this is where I believe our focus needs to turn to. And so, with all the unsung heroines in mind (I’m thinking of the most courageous, selfless and loving single mom I know- my own in heaven) I think we all need to take a few minutes out of our 8th March busy schedules and celebrate the world’s women; for without them we’d surely be naught.