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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

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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.

Social structure

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.

Share responsibilities

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.

 

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