International Women’s Day (‘IWD’) – in India

Today is International Women’s Day. A day when women celebrate and recognise the achievements of each other. For those of you who think this is a new phenomenon I’ll start with a little history…

IWD history

It was as long ago as March 1911 that IWD was first marked in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. It is always held on 8th March each year. IWD was first observed as a popular event after 1977 when the UN General Assembly invited member states to proclaim 8th March as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace. 

105 years later and there is still a need for an IWD. How sad that in 2016 women are still fighting for equal treatment – in the workplace, at home and in society. Some countries are well advanced on the quest for equality but others lag woefully behind. Why are men letting this happen? Why are men not fighting for the rights of their  wives and daughters? Do they not think that women should be treated as equals? Do men think that women don’t deserve to be paid the same as men for the same job? Apathy by men in our society is the enemy within.

IWD UK

Many women in business in the UK will have long sorted what they will be doing and where for this year’s IWD. Invites for lunches with inspirational and motivational speakers come out months in advance. It is a real celebration of women and their acheivements. I used to really enjoy being involved in the IWD events held by Deloitte in Nottingham – it was fun, informative and great for networking. Those events created a lot of goodwill for the firm. 

IWD India

India is one of those countries where the equality of women needs giant leaps forward. It is simply unthinkable in the west that spouses would be sent a text message every time their other half spends money on the joint bank account for example. It is accepted practice in India. My husband receives a text of where I am and the amount I am spending. This mildly amused him for the first day before the flurry of text messages became irritating after that.

In India there has been very little publicised much in advance. The Overseas Women’s Club had arranged a lunch with a speaker. I am aware that at least one global employer is planning an event for its ladies. Now obviously this shouldn’t surprise me in a nation where women are seen and treated as second class citizens at best. (Although I have seen advert for running shoes for IWD on TV.)

The Times of India conducted a poll regarding IWD with the headline “Movement of Sham?”. The results were that 69.8% thought IWD was needed. 42.2% thought it didn’t make a difference and a further 44.2% thought it was tokenism but needed-  leaving only 15.6% who thought it made some sort of difference. 61.2% thought it mattered only to “urban women” and 63.3% thought a Men’s Day was needed. (A men’s day for goodness sake – how incredibly insecure all these men are!).

91% of start ups in India are founded by men. When you look behind this you discover issues such a funding being a problem. “When women apply for a loan they are asked to bring extra collateral or return with their husband.” (Times of India). It is truly an astonishing attitude and one which simply wouldn’t be acceptedin the west; it would be challenged and the bank humiliated on social media for being so medieval. 

IWD 2016

This year’s campaign theme is ‘Pledge for Parity’. (Parity – the state or condition of being equal, especially as regards status or pay.) Whilst celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, in 2016 focus is on the fact that progress has slowed in many places across the world so urgent action is needed to accelerate gender parity and leaders across the world are pledging to take action. 

How sad that it is still necessary to have such campaigns but I am thankful that we still have the opportunity to change the status quo so that the future will be brighter for my own daughter and all the daughters across the world. Let’s keep pushing for change and for everyone, regardless of gender, to be treated equally.

Enjoy your International Women’s Day wherever you are in the world. I will be having a coffee with a friend.

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