Do we need a special day to celebrate being women?
International Womenís Day falls tomorrow. Every year, March 8 comes
upon the factory worker, the garment worker, the housewife, the student,
the teacher, the scientist, the businesswoman and all other women with
the kind of fervour and excitement reserved for big holidays. Women
being pragmatic and hands-on as mothers and wives, usually take it in
their stride. It happens to be just another day - but at least, it gives
some of us the opportunity to remind the world that the hand that rocks
the cradle does indeed rule the world - when it comes to moulding the
lives of the next generation, passing on values and traditions that make
life worthwhile and meaningful.
The International Womenís Day takes many forms - in countries such as
Germany, where I lived for a few years a while ago, women take the day
as their Ďday-offí and frequent pubs. The husbands are supposed to keep
the homes taken care of during the day. The women celebrate with their
sisters and itís all merry-making, of course without the fights and the
verbal abuse. The men cannot wear any ties that day too; any man found
wearing a tie will risk having it cut off.
The womenís day serves as a platform for the world to be reminded of
the service women engage in, while also keeping the home fires burning.
In the villages, women shoulder the burden of raising children, engaging
in a livelihood and ensuring that the social structure stayed intact -
this is more relevant against a backdrop of men on drugs or alcohol or
simply unwilling to share the burdens of family.
There are other problems that need to be highlighted on Womenís Day -
violence against women has assumed fresh proportions and can be
experienced at various levels of society. Regionally, gender based
violence has become an issue that needs attention. In Sri Lanka, the
statistics are also indicative of deeper problems. Mothers who leave
young children in the care of fathers often face complications; there
are many documented and undocumented stories of fathers abusing the
children left in their care. There are also issues where some women who
leave in search of greener pastures face torture and return home.
Gender discrimination is an issue that still needs to be discussed -
just having the legal framework in place isnít adequate. We need to
build up a dialogue that can achieve results. Boys need to be taught to
love and respect their mothers, their sisters, their female colleagues
and eventually their wives. Unless the entire society participates and
takes meaningful steps towards ensuring that everyone gets equal
treatment, we will be discussing the subject in vain. s
Eve-teasing on public transport has been a headache for many women
who will endure it on Womenís Day too. No woman who travels on public
transport really feels safe - she is on her guard, watching out for the
men who get an abnormal thrill from engaging in perverted activities.
Authorities must deal with this long over-due issue and work out a plan
to minimize if not completely deal with the situation.
The fact that the government has taken important steps towards
dealing with perverts is commendable - those who display pornographic
content on their mobile phones to hapless women are now swiftly
arrested. Every woman has the right to feel safe and secure on public
transport and on the roads. To deny her that right is a violation of her
right as an individual.
Often, the task of teaching boys who become men to respect their
fellow human beings falls on mothers themselves. Boys who learn to share
responsibilities and respect others will grow into adults who follow
those guidelines. We need to ask ourselves - are we teaching our sons to
do that or are we teaching our sons - and daughters that they can have
it all at the expense of others. Times have changed - in todayís
multi-cultural, complex world, there is no place for prejudice and
superiority whether gender based or otherwise. Itís all about hard work,
commitment and being empowered to give your very best.
As we cruise through the 21st century, where the world is connected
in real time, we have a greater responsibility as mothers, wives,
sisters and daughters to ensure that the International Womenís Day does
not lose its significance throughout the year. Itís a message we need to
pass on to the world.