International Women' Day is celebrated on 8th March every year. It marks the struggle of ordinary women for participation in society on an equal footing with men. This struggle is centuries old. The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of the century, during which period there was boom in population, industrial expansion but was also a period of turbulence and birth of radical ideologies.
The women garment makers in New York worked in appalling conditions, earned half of men's wages, died prematurely from poor health and didn't have even the right to vote. They demonstrated for better working conditions in 1908.
The first National Woman's Day was observed across the United States on 28 February 1909, as per the declaration by the Socialist Party of America.This was continued to be celebrated on the last Sunday of February till 1913.
The first International Women’s Day was held on 19th March 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries. German women selected this date because in 1848 the Prussian king had promised the vote for women. On March 19, socialists from Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries held strikes and marches. They demanded the right to vote, to hold public office, the right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
On 25 March, the Triangle Fire in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working girls, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event had a significant impact on labour legislation in the United States, and the working conditions leading up to the disasters were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women's Day.
As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. 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 their sisters.
With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war,Russian women again chose the last Sunday in February to strike for "bread and peace". Four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, but on 8th March on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere.
Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik feminist Alexandra Kollontai persuaded Lenin to make it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, and it was established, but was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women's Day was declared as a non working day in the USSR
Since then, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international Women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations Women's conferences, 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, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.
In India too this is celebrated. But is mere celebration of Womens Day enough for the upliftment of women?
Indian culture has been known for its reverence given to women as the saying from Manu Smruthi III-55-59, says" Where women are worshiped, there the Gods dwell. That is, where the women are happy, there will be prosperity. A Women must be honored and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands, and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare. Where women are honored, there the Gods are pleased."
But in truth is this being followed? So many atrocities against women in spite of one Jhansi Laksmi Bai one Indira Gandhi, one Kiran Bedi...and so on. Every day newspapers are filled with cases of rape, dowry deaths, acid attacks in the name of love and so many more. A girl child is killed even before she is born in spite of her being called as Ghar ki Lakshmi. She is discriminated and always comes second to the male child-be it education or nutritious food.In recent past we have so many attacks on women especially, acid attacks and in so many other forms.
Still all is not lost. We have more and more women coming out of homes getting educated holding responsible posts and going higher and higher like a Kalpana Chawla, stronger and stronger a Sania Mirza.... We Indians can be proud that we have a lady as our President, a lady who is the leader of our ruling party-Congress, a lady as Chief Minister of the Capital- Delhi, a lady as the Chief Minister of the largest State -Uttar Pradesh, and in our own Andhra Pradesh a lady as our Home Minister....
Government as well as parents are helping the girl child. But still there is lot tobe achieved. Parents and society must encourage the girl child in all ways they can, instill confidence make them self reliant so that she can face he world and stand on her own feet.
Lets us hope this year and the years ahead bring more cheers to women in India and across the globe. But for that we, the society as a whole must pledge together that we will respect and encourage women in their efforts because "Yatra naari pujayate....
Wishing you all a very HAPPY WOMEN'S DAY