The earliest record of a Women’s Day celebration comes from New York in 1909 and Russia in 1913, but it wasn’t until in March 1914 in London that the event came to be marked on March 8.
Following decades of rallies and processions, the United Nations finally began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975, which was also proclaimed as the International Women’s Year. Two years later, March 8 was declared the UN Day for women’s right.
International Women’s Day is now a global phenomenon. As the day has come to be celebrated in every country, the diverse ongoing struggles of the women’s movement are often overshadowed by marketing campaigns. Social media offers divided opinion — some call for celebrations, others prefer boycott.
Yet, the International Women’s Day marked decades and centuries of struggle and accomplishments. The feminist movement continues to struggle for greater inclusivity and raises deeper questions on what it means to be equal. We asked a few women what they aspire for and here’s what they told us.
Madhuchhanda Tarafdar, 53, lecturer, Kolkata
I want women to learn to respect themselves. Learn to stand up for themselves and other women. Learn to stick to their choices and put their individual selves over the roles they play in the family or society. I want women to have opinions and ideas and not need a man to validate their existence. I want them to not trivialize their existence by compromising in any situation. I want women to value self-respect above all.
Aditi Padiyar, 26, communications & outreach manager, Delhi
I find the concept of celebrating the significance of any one gender or emotion (Valentine’s Day, for instance) on a designated day very problematic. How many of these organisations or brands truly care about the cause? Capitalising on an issue of social relevance is rarely more than a marketing strategy or PR excercise.
Instead of being inundated with all messages about women power on one day of the year, if we could all work towards building an atmosphere that treats women with the respect and credibility granted to men.
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Aditi Datta, 60, education professional, Bengaluru
Societal expectations of what it means to be a woman must change, spearheaded by women themselves. When we were younger, the equality was far less preserve and we strove to perform better than men. Unfortunately, we still persist on the superwoman complex — we work all day and come back home and insist that we make tea (and dinner) for the family. Women have to realise that they can take a break too, go out and have fun and do things they enjoy. They must realise that change can only come about when they drive it themselves.
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Indrabati Sarkar, 25, PR and marketing manager, Kolkata
I want people to stop expecting the impossible out of me. I want them to stop expecting that I will be conscious of my body, my behaviour, my clothes, my responsibilities and my thoughts all the time. I want to be able to sit down in front of a man or a woman without having to worry if I am showing too much cleavage. I want to swear at the man who pushed me in the crowded metro and not be conscious of the profanity I am using. I want to fall out of love and break hearts without feeling the burden of not being the victim. I don’t want to worry about whether my underwear is seamless or not. I want NOT to be scrutinized at every moment and every step. I want to be considered as a person who is imperfect, with bad choices and weird ideas, but still complete in her own way.
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Chinmayee Bhamburkar, 22, student & activist, Pune
I would like to put a stop to acid attacks on women — I have been part of a group that has been petitioning to put a stop to the sale of acid and I am working to mobilize organisations and student bodies from different walks of life.
I am still a student, but one day I hope to actively work to empower women, be it the cleaner at my hostel or a victim of violence. We must actively work to empower every woman.
Dalzeen Nikorawala, 33, editor, Mumbai
I want for all women to have the ability to live a life to the fullest, with peace, love, and acceptance, without the fear of being judged. To be happy in one’s own skin, without comparison with anyone else. And to remember that all things are transient, and that silver linings exist; one only needs to look for them.”
Check out Campaign for Acid regulation here.