March 8th is International Women's Day (IWD). It is the one day of the year where the media praises the work of women, such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Mother Theresa; women who struggled and fought for what they believed in; and were only appreciated after their deaths. In many countries, like Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia, IWD is an official holiday, and is a tradition where some men honour their mothers, wives, girlfriends and colleagues with flowers and small gifts. This makes it sound like Valentine's Day, but for women only.
Whilst many would regard IWD a step in the right direction towards ultimate equality; I think the day just highlights how there is a gender issue in the world. One may regard this as a good thing, because if we know that inequality is prevalent, then we will try and eradicate it. We will try and incorporate women into the activities that men typically partake in. However, merely "adding women in" is not going to change social attitudes towards them. For centuries, women have been marginalised to the private sphere. They not only have domestic tasks, such as cooking, cleaning and child bearing to do; but many women in developing countries have to travel miles to obtain water, which is often not even clean. These are some of the toughest jobs which people do not recognise are even occurring. But the private sphere cannot be disconnected from the public sphere. The men who dominate this world, who fight in wars and make major decisions have most likely been taught and nurtured by women. But the dominant liberal ideology in this world prefers to keep the public and the private spheres separate, only reinforcing patriarchal notions.
Of course the achievements of the last decade or so cannot be disregarded. There have certainly been significant attitudinal shifts in both women's equality and emancipation. The increased presence of women in boardrooms and their visibility in global institutions highlight a step towards equality. But unfortunately, women are still not paid equal to men, nor do they have the chance to shape preferences to suit them. One could argue that it is merely a token offering to have women in international institutions. If they are not making the decisions which directly affect women, then why give them a position? The European Parliament proposed to introduce a quota to have 50% female representation in March 2012, reinforcing this idea of 'token offering'. The best man may not get the position, but it's OK if the quota has been achieved. To me this sounds ridiculous.
The irony is that the women who need the most recognition are the ones who are living in the most deprived communities of the world and who do not even have access to media like television and the internet. It is fantastic that thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women to celebrate achievements, ranging from political rallies to fashion parades. Even global corporations, such as Google support such a cause, by changing its logo on the search page. But these women do not even know that there is a day called "International Women's Day" dedicated to them. It will pass them like any other day. Instead these women are struggling to make ends meet, to feed their children over themselves and trying to better their lives in a world where they are constantly discriminated for their gender. On March 9th Google will change its logo back to the original one because it is no longer International Women's Day.
As a result, Bob Nameng - founder of Charity SKY which helps deprived children in South Africa - claimed that even if women's recognition was stretched to a month it would be much better. What use is stating the issues of women and showing images about their struggles on one day of the year, if on every other day of the year, no action is taken? Women make such instrumental decisions in life - the "management decisions within the home" - so they should be empowered and acknowledged. If the plights of women are not discussed after IWD, we are "fighting a losing battle."
The people who know about IWD are the ones who are already moving in the direction of full emancipation for women. The women who really need to have recognition will endure this day like it is any other day. It is great to have a day dedicated to women and celebrate their achievements. Yet in reality, tomorrow our lives may go back to normal, but their lives have not changed in the slightest. Consequently, the work of women needs to be recognised every day, not just on International Women's Day.