Monday, March 8, 2010

100th International Women's day

This year on March 8th 2010 we are observing the 100th International Women's day. India will celebrate it with the tabling of a bill in Rajya Sabha providing Women's reservation in National and State legislatures.

It will be apt now to look back at the history of  International Women's day.[IWD].

History of International Women's day

International Women's day was born at a time of great social turbulence and crisis. . In the years before 1910, from the turn of the 20th century, women in industrially developing countries were entering paid work in some numbers. Their jobs were sex segregated, mainly in textiles, manufacturing and domestic services where conditions were wretched and wages were low.. Trade unions were developing and industrial disputes broke out, including among sections of non-unionised women workers. In Europe, the flames of revolution were being kindled.
Major demands of early Women's movement were increase in wages,better working conditions and the right to vote in National and provincial elections.

 1908, on the last Sunday in February, socialist women in the United States initiated the first Women's Day when large demonstrations took place calling for the vote and the political and economic rights of women. The following year, 2,000 people attended a Women's Day rally in Manhattan.

In  1909 women garment workersin USA  staged a general strike. 30,000 workers struck for 13 cold, winter weeks for better pay and working conditions. The Women's Trade Union League provided bail money for arrested strikers and large sums for strike funds.

1910: In the Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin a leading German socialist proposed  a Women's Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women's rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.That conference also reasserted the importance of women's right to vote, dissociated itself from voting systems based on property rights and called for universal suffrage - the right to vote for all adult women and men Conference also called for maternity benefits which, despite an intervention by Alexandra Kollontai on behalf of unmarried mothers, were to be for married women only. It also decided to oppose night work as being detrimental to the health of most working women.

1911: As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
Russian revolutionary and feminist, Alexandra Kollontai, in Germany at the time, helped to organise the day, and wrote that it:

exceeded all expectations. Germany and Austria .... was one seething trembling sea of women. Meetings were organised everywhere… the small towns and even in the villages, halls were packed so full that they had to ask (male) workers to give up their places for the women.

Men stayed home with their children for a change and their wives, the captive housewives, went to meetings.

1913-1914: International Women's Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.

1917: Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally-agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.
On the 50th anniversary of IWD in 1960, 729 delegates from 73 countries met in a conference in Copenhagen. It adopted a general declaration of support for the political, economic and social rights of women.
During International Women's Year in 1975, IWD was given official recognition by the United Nations and was taken up by many governments.. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. For the United Nations, International Women's Day has been observed on 8 March since 1975.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – which is observed worldwide on 8 March – is "Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All".
The  challenges to gender equality and women’s empowerment that require urgent attention as per the U.N. include:

• Little progress has been made on reducing maternal mortality rates. Every year, 536,000 women
and girls die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth or following delivery,
the overwhelming majority in developing countries. Most of these complications are largely
preventable and treatable.

• Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic, with up to 70 per cent of women
experiencing violence in their lifetime. The problem remains universal, with women and girls
affected by violence in every region and every country.

• Access to labour markets and to decent work remains limited for women. In 2008, an estimated
52.6 per cent of women were in the labour force, compared with 77.5 per cent of men. Women
are more likely than men to have low-paid, low-status and vulnerable jobs, with limited or no
social protection or basic rights. A very high proportion of women in the labour force continues
to work in the informal economy.

• Serious challenges persist to women’s full and equal participation in senior decision-making
positions. These include negative stereotypes about women’s leadership roles and potential,
a lack of commitment by political parties and men leaders, inadequate funding and training
for women candidates and government officials, and discriminatory selection processes in all
sectors and at all levels.

• Women continue to be excluded from or seriously under-represented in peace negotiations,
peacebuilding and disarmament processes. Since 1992, women represented, on average, just
7.1 per cent of official delegation members, and only 2.1 per cent of signatories to peace
agreements. To date, very few women have been formal mediators.

 Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women's movement has helped make the commemoration a rallying point for coordinated efforts to demand women's rights and participation in the political and economic process. Increasingly, International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, and a call for change and to remember acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.Women's advancement not only brings integrity and happiness to women but also better life and joy to all and the International Women's Day not only belongs to women but also to all people of the world.

Let me end this post with a quote from Lena Lewis, U S. socialist, who declared 100 years ago

 that it was not a time for celebrating anything, but rather a day for anticipating all the struggles to come when" we may eventually and forever stamp out the last vestige of male egotism and his desire to dominate over women".

pic from
Joyce Stevens article


  1. Brilliant post Charakan. Excellent insight. We are here to promote the same cause. Happy Women's Day from the team of Bell Bajao. :)

  2. A brilliant and well researched post...I've come to expect such things from you...

    I would be happy when the day comes when we won't have to 'celebrate' women's day...

  3. This was one amazng, informative post! Thank You :)

    I wish you could do something like this on the Feminist Movement also... just an idea - because I feel you'd do a much better job with it than anybody else I know would.:)

  4. A current event to add to the list of things to celebrate today: An Oscar Win for International Women’s Day! Pretty nice timing, no?

  5. Dear Friend,
    Women are much more stronger than men and there is no doubting that. However, this talk about the women's reservation bill will do a lot of damage to the cause of women empowerment.
    like it or not, but reservation has always eluded success to the community which asked for it.

  6. Bones, thank you Yes let us hope that a day will come soon where women get what they are entitled too naturally and there will not be any need for celebration

  7. Thank you IHM, Will try to post something abt feminism when i get time

  8. Anirban, I do not understand how women's reservation in Legislatures will harm women's empowerment Most reservations in India had some good impact on the community concerned though those not eligible for that always complained it will not work. Reservation is not a panacea to end all discrimination but will help in making our civil society more inclusive

  9. Feminist review, Oscar for a women director is good but I wish it was not for war movie abt USA 's invasion of Iraq

  10. Dear Charakan,
    Please don't get me wrong. No way am I against women empowerment. i know that any community where women have had an equal say, has prospered. Women are miles ahead of men in most of the things today.
    However, reservation will not solve the problem. Consider this, the seats which will be reserved will also be rotated every election. So, any women who wins will have to contest from a different constituency every election.
    This will take away the credibility factor to a large extent.
    Secondly, didn't a prominent woman banker(Meera Sanyal)stand this time against Milind Deora? Where were all the woman that time? Next time, Milind Deora will make his wife/ girlfriend/mistress stand for the election and she will again win.
    So I feel that the best way to empower women is by:-
    a) making molestation/eve-teasing a capital punishment and ensuring that DGP Rathore and co go behind bars(incidentally, his wife is defending him, ironic isn't it?)
    b) Ensuring that all girls go to school.
    c) Giving massive incentives to female entrepreneur.


  11. Anirban, thank you for your reply. I think you underestimate both women politicians and the electorate.When ever the electorate had a credible alternative they had defeated family politics.Electorate is not worried about family politics but abt issues.I agree that more women members of powerful political families may enter the election arena may be at the expemse of male members of the family. But I am sure that with a large number of seats becoming available for women we will see huge number of women political workers entering the election arena and getting elected and becoming MPs,MLAs and Ministers. Many winnable MPs and MLAs will be renominated to same seat or nearby seats.Thus a large pool of women politicians will be created in all Political Parties.
    I agree with your 3 points abt women's empowerment. For that to occur we should atleast double the number of Women politicians and this Bill will precisely do that.

  12. My dear friend,
    Anyways, we both agree that women are better in most of the things, even if I disagree with you on the bill thingy!!!
    Personally, having being a kid brother to a doting elder sister, I realise that women are far more caring than men.
    cheers to that!!!

  13. Very informative as usual... and women world over needs to be given equal status...

    but while looking at International Woman Suffrage Timeline
    I wonder why India has gone the "reservation" way to get the women into politics... full suffrage was given to Indian women soon after independance and women were present in every way during the freedom struggle... we even had an Indira Gandhi second only to Sri Lanka as a woman Prime Minister in the world...
    will this reservation serve as a hurdle or progress? I continue to wonder...

  14. Anirban,
    cheers to gender equity.

  15. Happy Kitten, I can understand your apprehension. From all available evidences I am sure that Women's reservation in legislatures will be a big step forward in reducing gender disparity in India.Most of the other developed countries have not used reservation for such a purpose,but India is unique in many ways.Planning a post elaborating my views on this.


Comments are welcome especially if you do not think like me. But anonymous comments behind masks and those not relevant to the post are not encouraged.