International Women’s Day

Regular readers will know that I am a huge supporter of women’s rights and so International Women’s Day which falls tomorrow is a topic I never fail to write about.

International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when all women are recognised for their achievements. International Women’s Day was first born out of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Since those early days, International Women’s Day has grown in prominence and reach, touching women in every corner of the world. The growing international women’s movement has helped make International Women’s Day a central point for action, to build support for women’s rights and their full participation in the economy, politics, community and everyday life.

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In 1910, Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. The proposal received unanimous support from over one hundred women representing 17 countries. The very first International Women’s Day was held the following year on March 19th. Meetings and protests were held across Europe, with the largest street demonstration attracting 30,000 women. In 1913, IWD was moved to March 8th and has been held on this day ever since.

International Women’s Day or IWD, celebrated on March 08 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. The IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, International Women’s Day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere and is not country, group or organization specific.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day from the IWD organisation is Break the Bias. Let’s imagine a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive and a world where difference is valued and celebrated. Let us all forge women’s equality and collectively we can all Break the Bias. Individually, we’re all responsible for our thoughts and actions – all day, every day and we can break the biases in our communities, our workplaces, our schools, colleges and universities and together, we can all break the bias – on International Women’s Day and beyond. Purple, green and white are the colours of International Women’s Day with purple signifying justice and dignity, green symbolising hope and white representing purity, albeit a controversial concept. The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union or WSPU in the UK in 1908.

The United Nations celebrated International Women’s Day with a separate theme. Women and girls face greater vulnerability and exposure to disasters, and conflicts, and yet they remain largely ignored in developing solutions and their capabilities are often under-utilised. As the most impacted, women are also a critical part of the solution. The theme this year is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry. This year’s theme celebrates the tremendous efforts made by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. The world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality. Fifty years ago, we landed on the moon; in the last decade, we discovered new human ancestors and photographed a black hole for the first time. In the meantime, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. Less than 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women, as of 2019 and even today one in three women experiences gender-based violence.

Because sometimes we need to remember we’re not alone. Happy International Women’s Day to all the lovely women and the men who support and motivate their women!

In My Hands Today…

My Own Words – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams

My Own Words showcases Ruth Ginsburg’s astonishing intellectual range.

In this collection Justice Ginsburg discusses gender equality, the workings of the Supreme Court, being Jewish, law and lawyers in opera, and the value of looking beyond US shores when interpreting the US Constitution.

Throughout her life Justice Ginsburg has been a prolific writer and public speaker. This book’s sampling is selected by Justice Ginsburg and her authorized biographers Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, who introduce each chapter and provide biographical context and quotes gleaned from hundreds of interviews they have conducted.

Witty, engaging, serious, and playful, My Own Words is a fascinating glimpse into the life of one of America’s most influential women and a tonic to the current national discourse.

In My Hands Today…

Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes – Elizabeth Lesser

What story would Eve have told about picking the apple? Why is Pandora blamed for opening the box? And what about the fate of Cassandra who was blessed with knowing the future but cursed so that no one believed her? What if women had been the storytellers?

Elizabeth Lesser believes that if women’s voices had been equally heard and respected throughout history, humankind would have followed different hero myths and guiding stories—stories that value caretaking, champion compassion, and elevate communication over vengeance and violence.

Cassandra Speaks is about the stories we tell and how those stories become the culture. It’s about the stories we still blindly cling to, and the ones that cling to us: the origin tales, the guiding myths, the religious parables, the literature and films and fairy tales passed down through the centuries about women and men, power and war, sex and love, and the values we live by. Stories written mostly by men with lessons and laws for all of humanity. We have outgrown so many of them, and still they endure. This book is about what happens when women are the storytellers too—when we speak from our authentic voices, when we flex our values, when we become protagonists in the tales we tell about what it means to be human.

Lesser has walked two main paths in her life—the spiritual path and the feminist one—paths that sometimes cross but sometimes feel at cross-purposes. Cassandra Speaks is her extraordinary merging of the two. The bestselling author of Broken Open and Marrow, Lesser is a beloved spiritual writer, as well as a leading feminist thinker. In this book she gives equal voice to the cool water of her meditative self and the fire of her feminist self. With her trademark gifts of both humor and insight, she offers a vision that transcends the either/or ideologies on both sides of the gender debate.

Brilliantly structured into three distinct parts, Part One explores how history is carried forward through the stories a culture tells and values, and what we can do to balance the scales. Part Two looks at women and power and expands what it means to be courageous, daring, and strong. And Part Three offers “A Toolbox for Inner Strength.” Lesser argues that change in the culture starts with inner change, and that no one—woman or man—is immune to the corrupting influence of power. She provides inner tools to help us be both strong-willed and kind-hearted.

In My Hands Today…

What Would Frida Do?: A Guide to Living Boldly – Arianna Davis

A contemporary guide to life, love, and happiness inspired by the extraordinary artist Frida Kahlo.

Revered as much for her fierce spirit as she is for her art, Frida Kahlo stands today as a brazen symbol of daring creativity. She was a woman ahead of her time whose paintings have earned her generations of admirers around the globe. But perhaps her greatest work of art was her own life.

What Would Frida Do? explores the feminist icon’s signature style, outspoken politics, and boldness in love and art, even in the face of pain and heartbreak. The book celebrates her larger than life persona as a woman who loved passionately and lived ambitiously, refusing to remain in her husband’s shadow. Each chapter shares intimate stories from her life, revealing how she overcame obstacles by embracing her own ideals.

In this charming read, author Arianna Davis conjures Frida’s brave spirit, encouraging women to persevere, to create fearlessly, and to stand by their own truths.

International Day of the Girl Child

Girls play multiple roles in the household, society and the economy. They go to school, help with housework, work in factories, make friends, care for elder and younger family members and prepare themselves to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. While today, in many countries, the right to basic education is ingrained in their constitutions, there are many countries where girls are denied this right and even when girls are encouraged to continue their education, they face major challenges that make it difficult for them to attend regularly, sometimes receiving an unequal share of the household tasks due to customary practices in many regions of the world. Though life for the girl child is steadily improving, many are still subjected to horrific practices, such as female genital mutilation, son preference – often resulting in female infanticide – as well as child marriage, sexual exploitation and abuse. Girls are also more likely to experience discrimination in food allocation and healthcare, and are often outpaced and outranked by boys in all spheres of life. It is under this backdrop that upholding the rights of a girl child is not just important, it is absolutely essential.

Today is the International Day of the Girl Child which is also known as the Day of Girls and the International Day of the Girl and was first observed in 2012. The day supports more opportunity for girls and increases awareness of gender inequality faced by girls worldwide based upon their gender including areas such as access to education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, and protection from discrimination, violence against women and forced child marriage. The day increases awareness of issues faced by girls around the world which do not include or consider girls and and their issues become invisible. The Day of Girls helps raise awareness not only of the issues that girls face, but also of what is likely to happen when those problems are solved.

Around 33,000 girls are married off every day around the world, focing their bodies and mind to changes in ways they are just not ready for. An estimated 340,000 girls and young women are infected with the HIV virus every year and currently more than 3 million girls and young women are living with the virus all over the world. Around 44% of the girls between 15 to 19 years of age think it’s okay for a husband to beat his wife. Girls between five to 14 spend more than 28 hours doing labor, which is twice the time spent by boys and do more unpaid child labour and not astonishingly 96% of human trafficked individuals for sexual exploitation are girls and women.

The theme for the 2021 edition of the International Day of the Girl Child is Digital generation. Our generation. In 2021, the Generation Equality Forum launched five-year commitments for bolder solutions to gender inequality – just as the world entered the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic has accelerated digital platforms for learning, earning and connecting, some 2.2 billion people below the age of 25 still do not have internet access at home. Girls are more likely to be cut off. The gender gap for global internet users grew from 11 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent in 2019. In the world’s least developed countries, it hovers around 43 per cent. But the gender digital divide is about more than connectivity. Girls are also less likely than boys to use and own devices, and gain access to tech-related skills and jobs. Only by addressing the inequity and exclusion that span geographies and generations can we usher in a digital revolution for all, with all.

So why is this day important? It is important because it empowers girls and works to eliminate deep-rooted gender-based issues that have have been passed on for generations and have made gender-based discrimination and oppression threateningly common in every household, particularly in developing countries. An empowered girl grows up to be an empowered woman. The adolescence is a critical point in every person’s life and determines the trajectory of girls’ lives, which is why caring for girls in their youth benefits all. If they are empowered at a vulnerable age, they can mature into liberated, wise women of the future and when this happens, as a society, we all win. Investing in girls is the smart thing to do because when women and girls earn an income, they are likely to reinvest 90% of their income into their families. So empower girls around you, so they can grow up to be empowered women who will be an asset to society.