Every year the 8th of March is a day to rejoice, celebrate, engage, reach out to women all over the world and discuss how far we’ve come and how much farther we still have to go.
While it is encouraging to believe in the sanctity of the idea of International Women’s Day (IWD), more pragmatic members of society have asked whether the idea itself is reason enough to feel happy, liberated and progressive, without acknowledging the deeper complexities as far as the dignity of women in today’s world is concerned.
This year on the occasion of IWD, Sayfty decided to speak with a few people across the country to find out what their understanding of this day is. We asked them whether they know when it is celebrated, what significance it holds for them and whether they know of or are participating in any events on this day.
Nitesh Singh (Hardware engineer at Yantrr Electronic Systems, New Delhi) “I think it falls on either March 1st or 7th. I’m personally not enthusiastic about celebrating such days and encouraging the already prevailing hypocrisy around them. I’m aware that they hold a certain cultural and historical significance, but that’s about it. On a lighter note, I look forward to what youth icon Rahul Gandhi does this Women’s Day after his persistent claims of reaching out to and empowering the women of this country. A friend is organizing a Travelista She Festival at INA Delhi Haat on March 1st. That explains my confusion over the date as well.”
Aditi Annapurna (Student, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi) “I’m not sure of the exact date. The day doesn’t really hold any significance for me personally, but I think it’s a good way to institutionally set agendas for the advancement of women’s rights. Like if in the spirit of Women’s Day, the government starts a new reproductive rights scheme, I think its symbolism would be useful. Personally, I don’t think such ‘days’ do anything to accord respect to women all over the world. If anything, they reinforce conventional roles for women. For example, if you choose to celebrate women only as mothers or the head of household economies and not as doctors, CEOs and engineers or if they choose to not have children of their own, you end up limiting the role of women. I don’t know of any events being organized for this day yet.”
Shraddha Chaudhary (Student, National Law School India University, Bangalore) “I know that International Women’s Day falls on March 8. But I don’t think it means anything at all. As with any other ‘day’ every day should be women’s day. Otherwise it’s just a sham. We go through so much as women that no one really cares about and no one has taken a stand against, that this seems pretty pointless. In fact, it often sends out conflicting messages, just like gay pride parades do. I am aware that Durga India, an organisation that teaches women how to handle everyday harassment is planing an informal event with discussions, art competitions etc. at Ulsoor Lake in Bangalore.”
Sadaf Mirza (Student- Patna Women’s College, Patna) “I know International Women’s Day is on March 8. I think it’s a great initiative, one that makes a difference. We don’t appreciate people like, say our mothers all through the year. So if we celebrate the power and efforts of a woman one day in the year, it makes sense to me. It’s like wishing someone for their birthday. You might not speak to them the other 364 days but reaching out on that one day shows that you care. A teacher in my own college is also part of an NGO. She organises an event on Women’s Day to recognise and felicitate some unknown, unheeded women who are doing noteworthy work in their respective fields.”
Ashna Bajaj (Student-Lady Shri Ram College for Women, New Delhi) “Women’s Day falls on 8th March. While I’m glad we have one special day to celebrate womanhood, I personally think it shouldn’t be restricted to a one-day celebration. Being a woman is a special thing. Celebrating, appreciating and respecting that shouldn’t be confined to one day of the year. My college is holding a gender discussion as part of its academic congress this week, so I think this serves the purpose of a fruitful discussion on such important issues in the International Women’s Week pretty well.”
Yash Patwari (Student- Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, New Delhi)“No, I’m not sure when International Women’s Day is. But I’m aware of the concept and I think it’s a great initiative towards gender sensitization and women’s empowerment. I’m sure that a lot of my friends, including women wouldn’t know about the day. That is what makes it disappointing and shows that we have a really long way to go. I’m not aware of any events in particular.”
Supragya (Student- National Law University, Jodhpur) “Yes, I know that International Women’s Day is on March 8. I say this as a privileged, educated woman of the twenty first century who has been fortunate enough to gain higher education and not get married at eighteen that it’s a great day to celebrate womanhood, freedom and choice. It’s a day I, along with all my gal pals, feel proud of. In a country like ours, which has a literacy rate of 40%, it’s problematic that a significant section is still behind veils. Since I study in a relatively small town, I think most suggestions to make such days special would be laughed at in our male dominated spaces. But considering we have a woman vice-chancellor, maybe I will suggest something. Otherwise, I will just use the opportunity to go watch Gulab Gang with my girlfriends.”
Neha Sen (Student- Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai) “I know that International Women’s Day is on March 8. I’m aware that you can’t really single out one day in the year to celebrate womanhood, but I still feel it’s an important initiative considering women continue to be such a marginalized section. It reasserts the vision that we need to include everyone into the mainstream. I’ve been working on disability of late, and I realize disability is not just about handicaps you incur biologically but how society handicaps you as well. The same thing is done to women. Such days are important for people who don’t fit into moulds, to give space to them. An organization called Armman (Advancing Reduction in Mortality and Morbidity of Mothers, Children and Neonates) is planning an awareness program and fundraiser for the day.”
Shibayan Raha (Founding Director- Seven Sisters Project, New Delhi) “I know that International Women’s Day is on 8th March. But for me, every day is women’s day. Every day, I do honor the radical women in my life. 8th March is a globally recognized day; an opportunity for me to renew my pledge and work towards it. I never forget to wish my mother, whether I’m with her or not. I think the Tibetan Women’s Association organizes events in Dharamshala but I’m not sure about this year.”
About the Author Lata Jha is currently a student of journalism at Columbia University. She has written for numerous web platforms on a wide range of issues as both volunteer and intern. She aspires to pursue a career primarily in film journalism, though she is equally vocal about issues in other spheres of life that she may feel strongly for.