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  • Writer's picturePetra Zlatevska

Happy International Women’s Day

I had originally wanted to publish this post on International Women’s Day but since that date, I had some new inspirations which I found and so refined the piece. I also included some great web resources which I wanted to share. __________ I first remember celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) back in primary school. During the morning assembly, our school headmistress would start by telling us about the importance of the day. I can hear still hear her commanding voice… “You are so fortunate since there are many young girls just like you in other parts of the world who may not be able to go to school because there is no school near where they lived or their parents expect them to look after their younger siblings..” We were reminded that as young girls ready to take our place in this world, that not everyone lived in such a safe and peaceful country such as Australia. Then we would sing the school hymn. Back then in a suburban Sydney primary school, I could not have imagined how transformative IWD celebrations would come to be for me. Fast forward twenty years later, and I still can’t help but feel a combination of pride and excitement at sporadic points during the day. There is always something incredibly unique about IWD. It is a day very different to Mother’s Day. It is a day shared by women all over the world of all ages and nationalities – young, old, mother, non-mother, pensioner, student. It celebrates all that its means to be a woman no matter where you are born, irrespective of your circumstances are and what you want out of life. I suppose that on the 101st anniversary of the celebrations, I don’t want to look too deeply into it, yet it is an interesting coincidence that I should find myself living in Germany. Clara Zetkin, leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the German Social Democratic Party first suggested the idea of an International Women’s Day in 1910. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for womens’ demands. The conference in Copenhagen 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.International Women’s Day was the result. One year later, IWD was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. During the first year of the First World War in 1914, IWD was moved to 8 March, which has remained its global date ever since. It is a national holiday in over twenty countries. (Not coincidentally, many of these were formerly communist and China and Cuba give the day off to women only.)The day has traditionally been marked with a message from the U.N. Secretary-General. This year, UN Secratrary- General Ban Ki Moonacknowledged that despite the gains made in electing female heads of State, the increased number of women in boardrooms and progress in girls’ education, there is a long way to go before women and girls can be said to enjoy the fundamental rights, freedom and dignity that are their birthright. He dedicated this years IWD to rural women and girls around the world.While they make up 25% of the global population, they are much poorer than the poorest men when it comes to income, health and participation in decision-making. I thought about my own mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother. All of whom worked while raising families. They would be proud that there is now a fifth generation following suit. As much as things may have changed between my generation and that of my great-great-grandmother’s some 120 years ago, I think early female rights campaigners would be proud of the role they played in fighting for female enfranchisement, securing the right to work in male-dominated professions, and criminalising domestic violence. I feel that my world and my life is unquestionably better for many women.

Yet there is…“>not yet worldwide recognition that women’s rights are human rights. For example, less than 20% of the world’s parliamentarians are women. Less than 10% of countries have a female head of state (although in my home country of Australia and my adopted country,Germany, both heads of state are women) and less than 3% of signatories to peace agreements are women. Every minute, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth and another 20-30 women suffer serious injury or disability. Watching and reading about what is happening in Syria with not only many Syrian women dying but the recent loss of life of American journalist Marie Colvin is a timely reminder that we need to stand together with women who are at the centre of this conflict and the many other conflicts around the world. That is perhaps what I take out of IWD each year- that we are all so different, yet that I am grateful for my lot, realising that many women suffer so much more than you or me. What connects us as women is greater than what divides us. Anyways since I wrote the above piece, I found this poem that was written by Mother Teresa: Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is bliss, taste it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it. ~ Mother Teresa ~ If you are interested in following the views of renowned female opinion leaders, NGOs and other activists from many different continents focusing on women’s rights, politics, business, women in the arts and philanthropy, I have curated what I think is a pretty great twitter list here.


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