This year we celebrated the 108th International Women’s Day (IWD). Women’s day is an outcome of a strong labor movement in 1908 when thousands of women who were garment workers, marched through New York City to protest against their working conditions. The Socialist Party of America declared National Women’s Day a year later on 28 February 1909, in honour of the anniversary of the strikes. The idea to celebrate IWD came from Clara Zetkin. She proposed this idea in 1910 at the International Conference Of Working Women in Copenhagen. In this conference women from 17 countries unanimously agreed to celebrate IWD. Then, in the 1911 first celebration began worldwide for dignity and equal rights of women. Subsequently, the United Nations made it official in 1975 and started celebrating by setting an annual theme for the day.
This year’s theme for IWD is #BalanceforBetter. The motive behind this year’s theme is to build a gender-balance in all walks of life with a special focus on wage-gap, which is essential for economies and communities to thrive. Although India has come a long way, however, we are yet to achieve a substantial result, as far as women rights are concerned. Due to the complexity and rigidity of our social and religious set up, the quest for gender-equality keeps taking a back seat. Women have been subjugated for a long time in India under the oppressive patriarchal societal norms.
Over a period of time, some social groups have benefited from the gender justice movement. But, still, thousands of woman from the marginalized groups, are suffering from discrimination and are yearning for dignity and equality in their lives. I have been working with the unprivileged groups of women for the last 12 years in the most remote districts of India. As per my observations, factors like patriarchy, caste, religion, region jointly reinforce the oppression of women in our country.
The situation of women agricultural labourers is even worse. They toil day and night under the scorching sun and bone-chilling winters, yet their efforts are seldom recognized. Moreover, they are often subjected to mental, physical and sexual violence.
We should also not forget that when it comes to caste and religion-based violence, women are the worst sufferers. But unfortunately, these women have not found a medium to voice out their opinions and demands, as hardly anyone advocates for their rights in a dedicated manner. Sometimes, I feel there is also a need for inclusion of all kind of people in the gender justice movement, irrespective of class, caste, religion, and gender itself.
Often, due to religious biases, the mainstream women right groups do not take into account the woes of Muslim women. Even though the Dalit women have created their own platform to fight for gender justice, the sufferings of Muslim women are not at the forefront.
Let us celebrate our quest for gender-equality with the International women’s day, by rejecting patriarchy and making the world a better place for every single woman.