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Equality, Rights and Independence. What Do Women Want on the International Women’s Day?

CABAR.asia has prepared information about who, when and what for created this special women’s day.

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What is celebrated on March 8?

The eighth of March is the International Women’s Day. This is a day when all achievements of women are being celebrated regardless of ethnicity, ethnic, language, cultural, economic and political differences.

Every year, the UN chooses a particular theme to celebrate March 8. The theme for 2021 is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.”

According to the UN Women: “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.”

Why this date was chosen?

In fact, this date was not chosen immediately.

It is widely accepted that the holiday emerged after the women’s protest in New York City on February 28, 1908. Back then, tens of thousands of women took part in the march and demanded equal labour and remuneration conditions, as well as the right to vote and to stand for election. After that, the United States started celebrating the National Women’s Day on the last Sunday of February. So it was until 1913.

In the meantime, this day was celebrated in Europe in different ways until 1913 depending on the country: on March 19, May 12, March 2, March 9, March 12. In 1910, the activist of the German and International Labour Movement, Clara Zetkin, proposed to declare the International Women’s Day in Copenhagen during the second International Socialist Women’s Conference. Women were supposed to draw public attention to their problems by holding protests, marches and other thematic events on this day.

It was only in 1914 that the 8th of March was celebrated in eight countries at once: Austria, United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Russia, the United States, Switzerland.

On February 23, 1917 (or March 8, according to the new style calendar), the female workers of two enterprises stopped operations and took to the streets of Petersburg to protest. Other people joined them. Participants of the protest demanded equality, bread and increased daily allowance for soldiers’ wives.

In commemoration of this event, in 1921 participants of the second Communist Women’s Conference decided to celebrate March 8th every year as the International Women’s Day.

Is it the holiday of the socialist camp countries?

At first, it was really celebrated mainly in the countries with the communist ideology. But in March 1975, the UN General Assembly decided to make this holiday international.

What have women achieved since 1908?

For 112 years, women of all countries have gained the right to education, work, vote and stand for election. However, the issue of equal remuneration of labour remains unsolved even in developed countries. According to the UN, women earn 23 per cent less than men at average.

How did the day of struggle for women’s rights become the day of “spring, love and tenderness”?

The March 8 has been traditionally celebrated as the day of struggle for independence and women’s rights. Now many post-Soviet countries consider that women should be given gifts, wish them to be beautiful and tender on March 8. Why did the holiday lose its original nature and become a gender-oriented day?

Women’s emancipation was beneficial for the Soviet power until a certain moment: hands were needed to construct the new world. March 8 was sometimes used as a tool of political propaganda: on this day, thousands of Uzbek women took off hijabs on Registan square in Samarkand, at the initiative of Isaak Zelensky, the first secretary of the Central Asian Bureau of Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party, and set them on fire.

See also: “On the waves of spiritual memory”

Later on, revolutions and standing for their rights became dangerous for the system of government. In the 30s of last century, zhenotdel departments that helped struggle for women’s rights were abolished. In 1966, Brezhnev announced March 8 as a day-off, and the rhetoric of celebration has become more peaceful and linked to traditional gender roles such as the roles of mother, grandmother and “pleasing to the eye.” Modern feminists think that this approach strengthens sexist stereotypes and hinders the struggle for women’s rights.

Is there is a correct way to congratulate on March 8?

Exaggerated respect, which is demonstrated by men, towards women only on March 8 looks like a mockery, not a gift. This emphasises that in remaining days of the year the woman is secondary and does not have a right to her own opinion.

On this day, some men undertake “women’s” duties – cooking, cleaning. It does not seem as a gift or care if they prefer to have a woman take care of all household issues during the rest of the year. It’s important to take care of each other all year round by helping the partner in household cares and sharing responsibilities in upbringing children.

It would be cool if you decide to support various women’s initiatives and movements on this day by donating to some shelter or a women’s human rights organisations.

You can also join campaigns and marches organised by female and male activists around the world. Here are some examples:

On March 8, 2021, the women’s march will be held in Almaty. It is organised by the initiatives Feminita, KazFem, Femsreda, Svet and FemAgora. Participants of the campaign will gather at 12 pm in front of the statue of Gandhi and will march along Shevchenko Street to the statue of Ualikhanov. The rally will start at 15:00 in front of the statue of Ualikhanov.

In Bishkek the peaceful march will be held at 13:00 from the ‘White House’ to the monument to the Fighters of the Revolution. 

What are other days when women may be honoured officially?

If you want to honour women for their role in your life, you can do it on other days:

  • April 10 is the international Brothers and Sisters Day;
  • October 15 is the International Day of Rural Women;
  • October 28 is Russia’s Day of Grandparents;
  • Mother’s Day is celebrated every third Sunday of September in Kazakhstan, last Sunday of November in Russia, third Sunday of May in Kyrgyzstan. In the world, this holiday is mainly celebrated on the second Sunday of May.

There is also the International Day of the Girl. It was announced by the UN on October 11, 2012. All social problems and inequality faced by girls all over the world are usually discussed this day.

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