International Women’s Day – What is it?

Last week on March 8 the world celebrated International Women’s Day. Let us take a closer look at what this day is. Since 1909 International Women’s Day has been observed in the United States. In the 1920s the Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) also observed this day followed by China and Cuba who started celebrating it as a holiday for women and world peace. With each year it has become more and more popular around the world as a day for men to express their love for their wives, mothers and sisters. It is like Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day rolled into one. Men present their wives and mothers with gifts of appreciation like flowers or an equally meaningful gift. In some countries children give small gifts to their mothers and grandmothers. In other countries, women get a half day off work. Some schools will often have a celebration to honour their female teachers. In 1975, the United Nations also started to recognize this holiday. The UN chooses a political or social theme for the holiday each year. For example, one year the theme was “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.” In this way, the holiday is a time to look at the social and economic problems women have around the world to see what everyone can do together to find solutions. This is also a day when organisations like the Women’s Rights Movement hold a march or speak at a special event. Let’s break that down a little further:

What is the women’s right movement?
This is an organisation that advocates for women’s rights and equal rights for all women.

How come women don’t already have these rights?
In different societies throughout history, women have had different amounts of rights compared to men. Certain jobs were also considered for men only, like construction, engineering and as pilots to name a few. Women also missed out on getting an education because they had to stay home and look after their children or family members. Without a decent education one cannot get a decent job.

How do organisations like the Women’s Rights Movement help?
By standing up for women who may be denied a job or the right to do something important for her family, such as the right to vote, so she can choose leaders she believes will help her family, the right to an education, so she can get a good job and help support her family. The right to get any job she chooses and not just what is allocated to women. Even if a woman doesn’t have a family to support she still deserves these rights anyway. Previously only men worked in construction, and only men were mechanics, engineers, pilots and soldiers. However, over the years there are now women in all these fields and more but there are other issues like equal pay that they are still pushing for.

What do men think of all of this?
Many men stand alongside their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters. They support the women’s rights movements so that the rights of the women in their family are protected. In Fiji businesses usually hold a morning tea for the women in their office with the male staff serving them morning tea. Businesses also place advertisements in the papers and over the radio to wish all women a happy international women’s day.

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