Article by: Zaineen Karim
“To tell a woman everything she cannot do is to tell her everything she can.” – Spanish Proverb
International Women’s Day (IWD), March 8th, was a celebration of gender equality as well as the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all around the world. The very first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland; since then, it has become a global phenomenon. The battle for gender equality has been long and arduous, but has yielded excellent results. Over the last century, women have fought for voting rights, equal wages, education, halting domestic violence, and ending poverty.
This year, the theme of International Women’s Day was “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” The objectives were as follows:
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
- By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
- End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
- Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
- Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
IWD evokes mixed reactions from all over the world. Some argue that the existence of International Women’s Day implies that every other day of the year belongs to men, while others say that giving women a special status enforces a sense of victimhood and embodies the issues that feminists seek to demolish.
Although IWD raises global awareness and calls attention to the achievements of women and the drawbacks that still need to be overcome, some feminists argue that it simplifies the very complicated discussion of what it is to be a woman and what kind of problems a woman faces. A person’s sex is not the only determinant of their lives, rights, and problems. Different women have different contexts, social classes, sexualities, ethnic backgrounds, cultures and religions. All these circumstances raise the question of what defines a woman and whether or not they can all simply be grouped in one category. This gives way to the discussion of first world feminism and questions like whether a woman from Pakistan (facing attacks of terror and widespread misogyny) and a woman from Sweden (recognized as the utopia of gender equality) can really be put in the same category when their lives are so different. Ultimately, it is important to delve deeper than just a global sisterhood.
Fortunately, the world continues to develop and every day more people of all genders join the campaign to achieve equality on a global level. We should strive to break down the divide that gender has created and embrace each other as fellow human beings. As George Carlin says, “Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.”