So it’s a Saturday afternoon I am at home trying to catch up on this and that you know the usual , a text comes through “Hey whatsup? My response – IWD, next text –“InWarDrobe? I want to laugh because I know the sender is quite funny, but then again chances are he could very well know that its International Women’s Day and just trying to twitch me up a bit. Am I that much into clothes such that people don’t expect me to be concerned about anything else other than apparel? Believe it or not I sat and pondered on the significance of a day such as IWD, firstly to me as a women living in the world in South Africa, what it means to organisation’s representing women and what women stand for. If it started out in the early 1900s as a socialist political event the focus of the celebration ranging from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political and social achievements, does that mean at some point women were not celebrated as they should have been? Logically if something is not done the way it should the world goes out to try and enforce that right? What I am trying to get at is that for this day to even exist there must have been a necessity that gave intensification to it?
The UN officiated the day in 1975(wow) and from 1996 different themes for each year were set out from – Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future Women and the Peace Table, Women and Human Rights, World Free of Violence Against Women, Women Uniting for Peace, Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts, Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities ,Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals, Women and HIV/AIDS ,Gender Equality Beyond 2005; Building a More Secure Future, Women in Decision-making, Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls ,Investing in Women and Girls, Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls ,Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All ,Equal Access to Education, Training, and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women ,Empower Rural Women, End Poverty and Hunger ,A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women, Inspiring Change. Interesting themes I must say BUT has anything changed for the better as a result of such a celebration coupled with themes? Yes and No.
I would think that Women’s issues are human issues. Far-reaching concerns like gender equality, education, and access to markets affect men and women alike at work, home, and in our communities Yes things are changing as they would, yes women still struggle to have their voices heard, struggling to find ways to sit at the table as far as decision making is concerned BUT isn’t struggle tantamount with life? Everyone faces similar challenges; from career development to personal decisions regarding ‘having it all,’ it’s not just a women thing, or is it? One could also argue that not a lot has change or the change is rather inconsequential (never mind what or how we quantifying it against) For instance if I look at the 2009 theme: Women and Men United to End Violence against Women and Girls, A call for peace. Five years later According to a National Study on femicide in South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by her intimate partner.(Femicide is the killing of a woman by her intimate partner, who could be a boyfriend, husband or ex-partner) for example Reeva Steenkamp. Not so long ago two high school girls brutally murdered in Soweto by fellow school mates who happen to be men.I don’t mean to highlight the negatives only these are just a few examples that come to mind right now.
Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities – That is an ideal situation right where all are equal, but is it attainable? What boggles me up the most is that, it is said that women outnumber man in population generally, if that is the case why is it that boardrooms are bursting with more man than women? I am not trying to perpetuate anything it is just an honest question. I mean silly me for thinking that logically if there are more women than men, then there ought to me more women holding powerful positions in corporates, parliaments, public offices, sport, churches etc? So he says ‘Okay if you are saying that we need more women at the top, a fair representation, what should happen to the men currently holding those very same positions, we can’t expect them to just step down, retire before their time, we need to allow the natural order of things to take place (I think that’s how he put it natural order of thing).Or one of the things that corporates/organisations could look at would be the Standard Bank where you have two CEO’s running the company concurrently maybe look at one being a women in that case the skills transfer process could be a lot smoother and less time consuming. With any other situation there will be pros and cons but we cannot be so fixed in doing things the way they have been done to an extent where women are simple not trusted enough to lead (of course a CEO position is not something to gamble with), I am not saying companies should appoint women for the sake of making up the numbers NO) The optimist in me believes that there’s a pool of talented and capable women out there.
OH I don’t want to mention the myths that are set to holding women back things like – Women are their worst enemies – Clever, able women make it – so those who don’t just aren’t trying hard enough – The jobs market is fair – women just don’t want senior positions -Having women in top jobs doesn’t make any difference anyway – Women are too emotional – What happens when they have to have babies??
Though change will not come over night, however developing a culture in which women can excel and inspire takes a concerted effort led by several groups. I think the worst that women could do in efforts to empower women would be to exclude man. It makes no sense to me to address these issues with women when the people we need the most to drive such changes are man.