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Celebrating Progress: International Women's Day 2024


General Knowledge  •  5 Mar, 2024  •  43,719 Views  •  ⭐ 4.5

Written by Anand Swami


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International Women's Day, marked annually on 8th March, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day serves as a reminder to expedite efforts towards achieving equal gender rights. With roots tracing back to the early 20th century, the day has grown into a worldwide movement championed by governments, women's groups, corporations, and charities. It's a day of reflection, advocacy, and action, aiming to highlight the ongoing struggle for gender equality and celebrate the strides made towards this goal.

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The Origin and Significance of International Women's Day

International Women's Day
Image Credits: The Eastern Herald

International Women's Day, observed worldwide on March 8th, has its origins in the early 1900s, stemming from the labour movement in North America and Europe. It was first observed in 1909 in the United States, following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. The day gained international recognition in 1910 when Clara Zetkin, a German Marxist theorist and women's rights advocate, proposed at the International Socialist Woman's Conference that a day be set aside each year to promote equal rights, including suffrage for women.

The proposal was met with unanimous approval, leading to the first International Women's Day being celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Throughout the decades, it has evolved to not only celebrate women's achievements but also to highlight the ongoing struggles for gender equality. Prominent figures such as Malala Yousafzai, who champions girls' education, and Marie Curie, a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, embody the spirit of this day, showcasing the diverse ways women have contributed to the socio-political, economic, and scientific advancements globally.

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Women's Rights and Equality

Women's Rights and Equality
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Throughout the years, International Women's Day has emerged as a central milestone in the struggle for women's rights. It commemorates the struggle for women's rights, including the right to vote (suffrage), work, and live free from discrimination and violence.

The day also serves as a rallying cry to speed up the achievement of gender equality. Notable figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst, who led the British suffragette movement, and Indira Gandhi, India's first female Prime Minister, have played pivotal roles in advocating for and implementing policies that promote gender equality.

Despite significant progress, challenges remain in many areas, including the gender pay gap, reproductive rights, and protection against gender-based violence. The day prompts contemplation on advancements achieved, demands for reform, and honours the bravery and resolve of ordinary women who have assumed remarkable roles in the history of their nations and communities.

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Education and Empowerment of Women

Education and Empowerment of Women
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Education plays a crucial role in the empowerment of women, providing them with the knowledge and skills needed to pursue their rights and break through barriers. International Women's Day highlights the importance of access to education for women and girls worldwide. Figures like Malala Yousafzai, who stood up against the Taliban to advocate for girls' education in Pakistan, and Savitribai Phule, who was the first female teacher in India and played a key role in improving women's rights in the country, are testament to the power of education in transforming lives. Educated women are more likely to participate in the economic, political, and social arenas, contributing to the growth and stability of their countries.

Women in Leadership and Politics

Women in Leadership
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Women's participation in leadership and politics has been a central theme of International Women's Day. Despite the underrepresentation of women in political and executive roles worldwide, there has been significant progress. Women like Angela Merkel, who served as the Chancellor of Germany, and Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, have demonstrated strong leadership on the global stage.

In India, figures such as Indira Gandhi and Pratibha Patil, the first woman to serve as the President of India, have broken the glass ceiling in politics. Their contributions have paved the way for future generations of women leaders, highlighting the importance of gender diversity in decision-making processes.

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Gender Equality in the Workplace

Gender Equality
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Achieving gender equality in the workplace is a significant aspect of International Women's Day. The day advocates for women's rights to work, to fair and equal pay, and to be free from workplace discrimination. Pioneers like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a staunch advocate for women's rights and the second woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, have made significant contributions to legal protections for women in the workplace. In India, business leaders like Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, have broken barriers in the corporate world, demonstrating that women can lead some of the largest and most influential companies globally.

Science and Innovation

Women in Science
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Women have made significant contributions to science and innovation, fields where they have historically been underrepresented. International Women's Day celebrates the achievements of women scientists, engineers, and innovators who have driven progress in these fields. Marie Curie, a two-time Nobel Laureate, is renowned for her work in radioactivity, setting a precedent for women in science.

Similarly, Kalpana Chawla, the first woman of Indian origin in space, and Gitanjali Rao, a young inventor named TIME's first-ever "Kid of the Year" in 2020, exemplify the extraordinary contributions of women to science and technology, breaking stereotypes and inspiring future generations.

Health and Reproductive Rights

My Body My Choice
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International Women's Day also focuses on women's health and reproductive rights, advocating for access to comprehensive healthcare services, including maternity care, and the right to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. Figures like Dr Vera Gedroits, the first female surgeon in Russia and one of the world's first female professors of surgery, and Dr Soumya Swaminathan, the first Indian to hold the position of Deputy Director-General of Programmes at the World Health Organization, have made groundbreaking contributions to women's health. These efforts are crucial for the well-being and empowerment of women and their families.

Violence Against Women and Girls

Violence Against Women and Girls
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The fight against violence towards women and girls is a key issue highlighted on International Women's Day. The day is used as a platform to call for the end of violence and harassment, including domestic abuse, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as child marriage. Activists like Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues" and founder of V-Day, a movement to stop violence against women and girls, and Sunitha Krishnan, an Indian social activist and co-founder of Prajwala, an institution that assists trafficked women and girls in finding shelter and employment, are at the forefront of this fight. Their work is vital in raising awareness and driving action to protect and support survivors of violence.

Conclusion

International Women's Day is more than a day of celebration; it is a call to action for gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide. It's an opportunity to reflect on the advancements made, recognize the ongoing struggles, and recommit to the work ahead.

As we commemorate this day, let us all pledge to continue the fight for a balanced world where every woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and opportunities on an equal footing. The journey towards gender equality is ongoing, and every step forward enriches our global community.


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