International Women’s Day 2018: Viewpoints

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Press for Progress’. It means different things to different people. Teresa Rehman of The Thumb Print asks women from different walks of life in India and the USA and learns what they feel about the significance of the day. A few excerpts

(Featured photo: Kismat Bano, award-winning theatre artiste)

Kristine A. Greenizen, Artist

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I have been so lucky to have met such brilliant, talented, and accomplished women in my life from all around the world, that it seems only natural that there should be a day that honors them and all that they have achieved.

What saddens me is that this day is also so necessary with the inequalities that still exist for women worldwide, with inequities in educational opportunities, the existence of barbaric practices such as genital mutilation, the continuing efforts by men being made even in this country to control women’s choices and health care, and the ongoing struggle for pay equity; that instead of being able to accept and observe these achievements as normal, everyday occurrences…that a full half of the human race has to have a Special Day to be celebrated rather than being celebrated each and every day for the incredible beings that they are.

This is, for me, both the triumph and heartbreak of International Women’s Day.

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Prerna Bindra, Wildlife Conservationist, Writer

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I always find it somewhat churlish when we devote just the day to something—be it Mother’s Day, Earth Day, or for that matter, Woman’s Day. Challenges women face, from basic issues like safety, inequality, prejudices, the freedom to ‘be’, should be of concern and urgency every day.  Having said that, it matters that we have a day to focus on women, recognize their achievements, many times against all odds; their courage, conviction and spirit.

But until we have a society which respects women, grants them the freedom of choice, upholds their dignity, appreciates their courage, empathizes with the challenges they face- a Women’s Day will seem hollow, and gimmicky.

As a woman working in conservation, I think it is a day when we need to renew our bonds with Mother Nature and Earth who nurture and sustain us.

As a woman who has struggled with prejudices to make my choices-both personal and professional, and who has faced the everyday challenges of a working woman, I hope this day will serve to remind us of our challenges and achievements. 

I see this day also as a celebration of being a woman, and the fact that the world also changes for the better for us, everyday.  

Margaret Roll, Historical Interpreter, Genesse County Musuem and master-quilter

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These are woman’s high prerogatives:
To make and inspire the home
To lessen suffering and increase happiness
To aid mankind in its upward struggles
To ennoble and adorn life’s work however humble

A prerogative is “an exclusive right or privilege; a priority; a superior advantage.”

As women, we are in a unique position to influence our families, our communities and the world around us.  We can create a welcoming and nurturing home environment, provide aid and comfort for the sick and needy in our communities, and develop artistic and musical talents to beautify our lives.  We can educate ourselves and others and strive to improve conditions in society.  We can exemplify time-tested values such as hard work, thrift, excellence, endurance, diligence, courage, contentment, resourcefulness, creativity and generosity. 

          “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

                                                                                  — St. Catherine of Siena

*Inscribed on the former Women’s College building at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA (circa 1900)

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Barbara P. Haschmann, Sign Language Interpreter

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To me, International Women’s Day means that I, a woman who has been abundantly blessed, have the privilege of using my resources to help free other women around the world. I use my resources to give mainly to two causes: clean water, and organizations that help stop trafficking. Not having to carry water long distances everyday helps free little girls to be able to go to school, changes their lives and generations after them. Sponsoring children through Compassion International help save both girls and boys from sexual trafficking. Other organizations to which I give help prevent or rescue people from being indentured servants.

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Indrani Raimedhi, Journalist and Author

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Women’s day is a day of contemplation for me — looking from the prism of my own life with all its little comforts and blessings will be a self-limiting exercise at best so last year I came out with a book that explored the lives of women prison inmates — their crimes revealed so clearly that more than villains they were victims of patriarchy poverty illiteracy the dice is indeed loaded against them — women are capable of facing danger was what I learnt from the insurgents I interviewed in the end I discovered that educated women from better off families shone as police officers lawers etc.  Women’s day must help us realise that every disadvantaged woman is a burden to herself and society.

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Kolein Velvette Carlson, Creator, Poet, Philosopher

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The actions and conduct of our souls crying out is the greatest force for change in our world. Honouring our individual perplexities, attributes and strengths requires an enlightened humanity above all else. This is not forced by opinion or a group mantra. The inner wisdom that guides us is always available. In fact, this guide is always at the ready. Yet, there are societies in our “modern” earth denouncing, dishonoring, creating disparity by their actions, words, legislation, and religions – calling this power. True power is a force to be reckoned with, to be sure. But it is not on the outside. When women and men tap into this impenetrable guide, that of the human soul, the world changes.

This is why I march every day. This is why I celebrate every day. For you. For me. For my husband. My sons. For the young girls in my neighbourhood. For my nieces. My sister. My brothers. Their wives. For all the men and women I encounter every day. Paying attention to our true power within has an echo-force that ultimately changes the world from the inside out. This is why I love being a woman, among women – where the cries of the soul are honored and progress is made.

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Roopa Sharma, Chicago, is actively involved in Assamese Community in the US 

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A few principles stand out when International Women’s Day (IWD) comes to mind.  It highlights the importance of women’s issues – from the political activism of the Suffragettes to today’s barriers and social stigmas. Women around the world have grappled with issues that men have not had to address. Because each era brings about new struggles (and thereby new victories), IWD for me stands for freedom and equality for all women.  Women everywhere are fighting their own battles in different issues – from Japan to Nigeria, from the US to Brazil. I believe women who have the voice or power should fight for those who do not. Justice has no borders.  Finally, taking a cue from Hillary Clinton’s now famous speech on women’s issues in China: “…Let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.” 

Let us celebrate women’s achievements thus far in every sphere on International Women’s Day.  

Teresa Rehman

Teresa Rehman

Teresa Rehman is an award-winning journalist based in Northeast India. She had worked with India Today magazine, The Telegraph and Tehelka. She is now the Managing Editor of The Thumb Print. She has been awarded the WASH Media Awards 2009-2010. She had recieved the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award for two consecutive years (2008-09 and 2009-10) for the category 'Reporting on J&K and the Northeast (Print). She received the Laadli Media Award for Gender Sensitivity 2011, Sanskriti Award 2009 for Excellence in Journalism and the Seventh Sarojini Naidu Prize 2007 for Best Reporting on Panchayati Raj by The Hunger Project. She was also featured in the Power List of Femina magazine in 2012. Her debut book is 'The Mothers of Manipur' (Zubaan Books).