International Women’s Day(IWD) is celebrated on 8thMarch, every year. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights after Socialist Party of America organized a Women’s Day on February -8 in1909 in New-York. The 1910,International Socialist Women’s Conference suggested ,a women’s Day be held annually .After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917,March 8 became a National holiday there. The day was then predominately celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations .It is claimed that the day was commemorating a protest by women garment workers in New-York on 8th March 1857.The United Nations began celebrating “International Women’s Day “in the International Women’s Year 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited members state to proclaim March 8 as the United Nations Day for Women’s right and World peace. The theme for International Women’s Day-2019 is “Think Equal, Build Smart, and Innovate for change”. The focus of the, on innovative ways in which to advance gender equality and empowerment of women particularly in the area of social protection system, access to public service and sustainable infrastructures.
Yes, it is very much necessary and a must to celebrate this day widely and also celebrating worldwide. But, is the situation dismal to be a woman in India? In a survey of experts done in 2018, India ranks as the world’s most dangerous country for women. It had ranked 4th in the same survey done 7 years ago. The Global Gender Gap Index 2017 by the World Economic Forum, placed India at 108 positions out of 144 countries benchmarked on the basis of gender parity in the field of economic participation, education, health and political empowerment. India ranked 131 out of 153 countries in the global women peace and security Index 2017-18, that is based upon 11 indicators incorporating inclusion, justice and security. Despite women accounting for 49% of India’s population, only 12% of seats in the national legislature are held by them. The female labor force participation rate in India fell from 37% in 2006 to 27% in 2017 as per World Bank report, ranking India at 163 out of 181 countries.
Yes, it is also true that, more women are getting educated and coming out of their cocooned existence. They are entering professions that were till recently considered to be the domain of males. They are flying planes, driving e-rickshaws and trains, wielding the surgeon’s knife and winning Olympic medals. It is heartening to know that amongst the top 79 global airlines ,Indigo Airlines employs maximum percentage of women pilots (14%) followed closely by Air India (nearly 10%).Even rural women are becoming more independent ,working outside of their homes and exhibiting active leadership at local government level. The Economic survey -2018 shows that 43% of all gram Panchayat (Village Councils) in India are headed by women so as in Manipur also. In spite of all these, there are still problems at ground level in actual practice. The number of women in the work force is dismally low and even those who are working do not get equal wages as compared to their male counterparts. Women do not even have the right to take personal decisions; they do not have the right to enter into matrimony or walk out of a relationship of their own choice. Sometimes somebody also raised the question like: why is a women expected to fit in the framework designed by a patriarchal society and conform to the social norms laid down by others, even if they are deter mental for her own wellbeing? There are women, who are financially independent who suffer in silence and stay in abusive marriages. Perhaps, due to emotional weakness, they are scared of what others will say. Even though more and more girls are going to school, education of the girl child is still beset with problems. This is more so in rural areas where girls schools are still not a plenty and parents do not feel safe for their daughters to travel long distances. Also most rural schools have poor toilet facilities, which is another deterrent for girls .This is fact in case of Government schools in Manipur ,as per ASER -2018 report and at the same time girls students are not safe in private boarding’s, where many sexual harassment news often came out in our local dailies. Patriarchal mindsets when coupled with poor economic status make matters worse.
India has several women friendly laws on girls’ education, prohibition of child marriage, equal inheritance of property, curbing of sexual and domestic violence etc. However, lack of political will power and a deeply entrenched patriarchal society makes their implementation very poor. Moreover, most women –even the educated and working women –do not have much knowledge about them and many are clueless even about their existence. India is a vast country, which, despite the skewed up sex ratio (945 females per 1000 males) is a home to 65 crore women. That is a huge women power ,who should neither bow down in fear nor remains silent, but be brave and snatch their rights to exercise their choices- be it their education, marriage, profession, or health ( including sexual and reproductive health).The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of Balance for Better also calls for driving gender balance across the world-gender balanced boardrooms, a gender –balanced government, gender balanced media coverage, a gender balanced of employees, more gender –balanced in wealth. So let us celebrate our womanhood every day and fight till win. In solidarity we all should stand together.
Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents.