Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day!

Flowers, flowers everywhere! It can only mean one thing: International Women's Day!!!!

Vietnam is IWD crazy right now. Seemingly every major street has at least a half dozen people selling flowers. There's also banners all over town reminding men that today is a special day. Luckily if I had somehow missed the posters, Huyen reminded me at least thirty times over the last few days that Monday was a very very very important holiday. I bought Huyen roses and chocolates and in true Vietnamese style, let her cook dinner for me (I wanted to take her for dinner but she cooked while I was teaching a private student).

Don't worry readers in America, Canada, Australia, England and one hundred other countries -- International Women's Day hasn't been designated a holiday in our nations yet. Hopefully one day our glass ceiling can be raised as high as some of the nations who have claimed IWD as a national holiday. According to the International Women's Day Website:

"IWD is now an official holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that 'all the battles have been won for women' while many feminists from the 1970's know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.

However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.

Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

Many global corporations have also started to more actively support IWD by running their own internal events and through supporting external ones. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google some years even changes its logo on its global search pages. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status. The United States even designates the whole month of March as 'Women's History Month'.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women's Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.