By: Ayhan Ozer
“Women’s conditions will never change – until men change!”
Each year on March 8 the world celebrates the International Women’s Day, and salutes women around the world for their perpetual struggles to reinforce their civic rights. The world fully recognizes the enormous contributions that the women have made to our civilizations; first and foremost, by elevating the standards of our society. Women have rich potential which is a cherished gift to humanity. The world extends gratitude to women for this blessing. We all are conscious about the perpetual need to eliminate the hurdles that impede women from achieving their exalted goals.
The International Women’s Day concept was first recognized on March 8, 1908, the date New York textile workers – all women – called a strike to demand safer working conditions and to condemn child labor. On March 8, 1917, during WW I, this time women in Russia engaged in a strike for “Bread and Peace”. Four days later the Czar Nicholas abdicated, and the new government under Lenin declared March 8 an official holiday celebrating “The Heroic Women Workers of Russia.” In 1975 the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on the same day, March 8. Two years later, in December 1977 the U.N. General Assembly adopted a Resolution proclaiming the ” Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace” to be observed by the member nations.
The Women’s rights agenda is crowded with a whole range of women issues, such as equal access to health care, educational opportunities, jobs and equal pay, prevention of forced abortion and prostitution, female infanticide to evade dowry, genital mutilation, wartime and marital rape and honor killings. There are other peripheral issues that are historically backward, yet they are a strand in the fabric of certain societies. For instance, in most countries medicine is slow to address the female-specific diseases, sometimes schools short-change girls, and domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. In certain die-hard societies anti-woman backward traditions are regarded by the male establishment as the foundation of their power. In some religions there are even injunctions against land and property ownership by women, which relegate them to an economical pariah status. And, statistically about 60% of working women, worldwide, are sexually harassed at work.
On the bright side however, it is encouraging to see so many earnest women, even in the developing countries, who strive to improve their conditions. Thanks to this newly raised consciousness more and more countries have taken positive steps in recognizing women’s plight and granting asylum to women fleeing inhuman conditions in their own countries, such as severe domestic abuse and various forms of culturally-motivated violence.
Since those early years International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension. The growing awareness about women issues has become a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and their participations in the political, educational, economic, literary as well as the artistic areas.
However, in some Islamic countries women’s social, educational and economic conditions are at a primitive level, mainly because Islam considers women inferior physically, intellectually and morally to men. A great majority of the abused women who seek asylum in the West come from the Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan.
In those countries, the first visible hurdle obstructing the progress of women is their dress code. Unless Muslim women discard their burqas, chador and head-scarves they can hardly achieve any progress in women’s rights. A woman with no face is deprived of her personhood, of her name, her dignity, and her purchase on humanity. A woman draped in cloth from head to toe can not be recognized in public, and therefore she has no public persona, her existence is impersonal. Before Muslim women can address any issue, the foremost battle they must wage is to revolutionize the way they present themselves in a society — both visibly and intellectually.
The International Women Day is a priceless opportunity to reflect upon the progress made by the heroic women all over the world. Also, it gives us inspiration and motivation to call for further progress and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and their communities.
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