Short Article on International Women's Day

Monday, March 16, 2009, 11:32 AM

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International Women's Day

                                                         -Irfath Ara Iva


For the women of the world, this Day of 8th March is an occasion to review how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. Even though about half of the world population is women and they have a significant contribution in the rise of civilization, but unfortunately, decade after decade women of the world are oppressed, suppressed and their contribution in different stages of life is under enumerated. Actually for a sound and sustainable development it is pertinent to ensure the equal justice towards women. Realizing the importance of the fact, the United Nations General Assembly on 1977 formally proclaimed the celebration of International Women's Day to recognize that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women, and to acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security.

Background of the Day

Though the International Women’s Day has been observed since 1975 in an organized way, there is a long history to observe the day. It was said in the history that the International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world, that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.

In 1869, British MP John Stuart Mill was the first person in Parliament to call for women's right to vote. On 19 September, 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. Women in other countries did not enjoy this equality and campaigned for justice for many years.

In 1910, a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.

The very first International Women's Day was launched the following year by Clara Zetkin on 19 March (not 8 March). The date was chosen because on 19 March in the year of the 1848 revolution, the Prussian king recognized for the first time the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising, among the many promise he made which he later failed to keep, was the introduction of votes for women. Gradually Plans for the first International Women's Day demonstration were spread by word of mouth and in the press. During the week before International Women's Day different articles were published. And all articles emphasized the same point that it was absolutely necessary to make parliament more democratic by extending the franchise to women.

In 1913, International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women's Day ever since. During International Women's Year in 1975, International Women’s Day was given official recognition by the United Nations and was taken up by many governments. International Women's Day is marked by a national holiday in may countries like China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam etc.

Importance of the Day:

Undoubtedly, the origin of a child is a mother, a woman- she shows a man what loving, caring and sharing is all about. Indeed a woman’s essence lies in her innate ability to care, love and sacrifice for the other. She plays an all-enveloping character of a mother, daughter, wife and sister as a friend, nurturer, guide and partner from time to time. Emotional and vulnerable, sometimes erratic, sometimes serene, she displays a wonderful range of emotions from being patient to being extremely courageous in times of crisis.

Tormented and subjugated throughout all times and ages, women have fought their way through exploitation, harassment, and have managed to secure their rights in the public domain. In spite of continuing exploitation and injustice against women both in the domestic and work sector today, several milestones have been achieved in terms of education, freedom of choice and liberty, equality etc. With growing literacy and financial independence women feel more empowered today to assert their right to a life of dignity and self worth. The International Women's Day celebrated on 8th March is a universal day for all women around the world. It endows them with a sense of honour, dignity and self respect for being the person that they are. This day marks a celebration of the economic, social, cultural and political achievements made by women over the years.

Every year hundreds of events are held throughout the world to mark International Women’s Day on 8 March. The occasion provides an opportunity to think about the persisting gender inequalities that prevail in most societies and also draw inspiration from innovative efforts underway to address these injustices. Some one might think that women's equality benefits mostly women, but every one-percentile growth in female secondary schooling results in a 0.3 percent growth in the economy. Until the men and women work together to secure the rights and full potential of women, lasting solutions to the world's most serious social, economic and political problems are unlikely to be found.  

International Women's Day 2009 Theme:

Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments and women's groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues. Women and men united to end violence against women and girls is the theme for 2009.

Below are some of the global United Nation themes used for International Women's Day to date:

2008: Investing in Women and Girls

2007: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls

2006: Women in decision-making

2005: Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future

2004: Women and HIV/AIDS

2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals

2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities

2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts

2000: Women Uniting for Peace

1999: World Free of Violence against Women

1998: Women and Human Rights

1997: Women at the Peace Table

1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future

Women and Development World:

Today’s world is changing at a startling pace. Political and economic transformations seem to be occurring everywhere as countries convert from command to demand economies, dictatorships move toward democracy, and monarchies build new civil institutions. These changes have created economic opportunities for women who want to own and operate businesses. Despite of women’s participation in the socio-economic and political development, women have less access to manage their money. Demographic factors such as education, household income, age and marital status influence how a woman manages her money. Women do two-thirds of the world's work but receive only 10% of the world's income. Besides, the majority of the world's 1.3 billion absolute poor are women. On average, women receive between 30 and 40 per cent less pay than men earn for the same work. Furthermore, everywhere women continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.

Though the political participation of women has significantly increased in the recent era throughout the world, women occupy 13.8% of parliament seats around the world. Regional averages of percentage of women in parliament vary greatly.  The Nordic countries have the highest percentage with and the Arab states have the lowest with women occupying. The other regions fall somewhere in between with the Americas at 15.6%, Europe at 13.8%, Asia at 14.9%, Sub-Saharan Africa at 12.5% and the Pacific at 13.6%. From 1945 to 1995 the percentage of women MPs worldwide increased four-fold. In the last parliamentary election of Bangladesh 19 women had elected as the Member of Parliament.


Devoid of success in some areas there are some issues on which should be considered with great attention and extensive task should be done. As women are significantly under-represented in some areas and still 80% of the world's 27 million refugees are women, 530,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year.

International Instruments/Declarations/Treaties:

As a member state of the United Nations, Bangladesh Government has signed and ratified several International treaties and agreements by this time. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women,1979, the Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1953, the Convention  on  Consent to Marriage Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages, 1962, the Convention Against Torture  and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984, the International convention on the Protection of the Rights of  All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, 1990, the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1966, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989, Amendment to Article 43 (2) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1995 are the most remarkable among them.

International Women’s Day and Bangladesh:

International Women’s Day was observed in Bangladesh amidst renewed pledge to protect women’s rights and with assurance to make women’s participation in all spheres of national life in Bangladesh. Articles 10, 27, 28 (1) (2) (4), 29 (2), 29(3) (C), 65 (3) of the Constitution of Bangladesh,1972 emphasize on the rights of women. Besides there are some special laws and provisions which protect and promote the rights of women. Unlike other member states of the United Nations, Bangladesh Government has formulated a Women’s Development Policy on the basis of PFA (Platform for Action) and work accordingly for its implementation. Different line Ministries of the Government has taken some positive initiatives to promote gender equality and to integrate women with the mainstream of development. Actually to promote gender equality economic and political empowerment are the prime area where we have to emphasize. Along with Government some Non Government organization of Bangladesh have been working on this issue and trying to accelerate the position of women from root level to policy level.

In recent decades, much progress has been made. Over all women's access to education and proper health care has increased; their participation in the paid labor force has grown; and legislation that promises equal opportunities for women and respect for their human rights has been adopted even in many development countries like Bangladesh. The world now has an ever - growing number of women participating in society as policy-makers.  It is a matter of hope that in the near future nowhere in the world women can claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men.