Every international women’s day, this very question is asked. From children as young as 5 years to adults as old as they can be, the question goes, why put a special day for the women? In voluminous ways, the recognition of women is a puzzle to many. While in Africa, the day comes as a foreign pulse that addresses a couple of injustices done unto women, in the West, the women’s day has several remarked acts to its existence. Some of these, in addition to the over the time shifting paradigms, embed the rationale for celebrating present day 8th March-Women’s Day.
Started by the Suffragettes in the early 1900’s, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911. International Women’s Day belongs to all communities everywhere – governments, companies, charities, educational institutions, networks, associations, the media and more. Whether through an international symposium, community gathering, classroom lesson or tea table conversation – everyone can play a purposeful part in the journey of gender parity.
According to the UN, we celebrate the International Women’s Day as a way of recognizing women for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is also held to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
Photo: Female army officers taking part in the march past on during the international women’s day celebrations 2018- Photo by: Abou Kisige-New Vision Uganda
Since its budding, the 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 stadia to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arena.
International Women’s Day first materialized from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. This was followed by a series of events, conferences, discussions and treaties. Some of the remarkable years in the struggle are;
- In this year, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
- The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honor the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
- As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
- Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
- The year 1975 was marked as the international women’s year. During this year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March.
In 1995,the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, focused on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.
In 2014, the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) – the annual gathering of States to address critical issues related to gender equality and women’s rights — focused on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. UN entities and accredited NGOs from around the world took stock of progress and remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have played an important role in galvanizing attention on and resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
This year’s commission on the status of women is the 62nd. This year’s session is taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018.
The year’s theme is: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls; this coincides with Uganda’s women’s day theme: Empowerment of rural women and girls; challenges and opportunities.
The UN also set a review theme this year to run as: “Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women shall focus on achieving gender equality and empowerment of rural women and girls,” while the global theme was; “Press for progress”
Uganda celebrated the day in Mityana district at Busubuzi Core Primary Teachers’ College. The president of Uganda, his Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni graced the function as chief guest.
In his speech, the President said that women are the base of society but for some unknown reasons, the old societies decided to marginalize and suppress them.
“If we empower women, as well as the graduates, we shall have implemented two programmes: One, enhanced imports substitution, and two, enhanced exports promotion,” added the President.
During the same event, the president challenged members of parliament to push for more budget allocations for women adding that women’s wealth groups are ‘banks’ that can enable women create their own property. Also key in his address was the emphasis on girl child education. A fact that he pointed out as critical in both the empowering process as well as national development. The president further decried physical violence of some men on women, an act which he referred to as weak.
“A man who batters a woman is foolish and a coward,” added the president.
Mr. Museveni added that some women do not report cases of abuse by their husbands for fear of being driven out to a life of hopelessness and economic desperation.
In attendance for the Women’s Day celebrations was the Speaker of Parliament Hon Rebecca Kadaga, the Prime Minister Rt Hon Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, the Minister of Gender, Labor and Social Development Ms. Janat Mukwaya and US Ambassador to Uganda, Ms Deborah Malac.