8 Mar 2013

International Women’s Day (IWD) 2013: "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”

Women are the emblem of beauty, patience, love, passion, kindness and struggle. Every home, every heart, every feeling, every moment of happiness and foremost, the existence of mankind itself is incomplete and impossible without a woman. A woman must have the right to live her life on her own terms and enjoy it to the fullest, who serves as a mother, a child, a sister, a wife, a companion or a guide and performs various roles as the situation demands. A lot of efforts are happening in India and throughout the world for empowerment of women, but there still exists a wide gap between the goals enunciated in the Constitution, legislation, policies, plans, programmes, and related mechanisms on the one hand and the situational reality of the status of women in India or elsewhere,on the other hand. International Women's Day (IWD) is a global celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women’s economic, political and social achievements throughout the world, celebrated on 8th March every  year.

Historical Fact Timeline of IWD:
15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.


In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February.


In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference 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 and thus International Women's Day was the result.

1911 :

Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women's Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March.1911 also saw women's 'Bread and Roses’ campaign.

On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Women’s Day ever since.


On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for "Bread and Peace" in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women's strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.

1918 – 1999:

1975 was designated as 'International Women's Year' by the United Nations. Women's organizations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women's advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women's equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.

2000 and beyond:

IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

Events took place in more than 100 countries on March 8, 2011 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day. In the United States, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be "Women's History Month", calling Americans to mark IWD by reflecting on "the extraordinary accomplishments of women" in shaping the country's history. Ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges", on the eve of IWD. In the run-up to 2011 International Women's Day, the International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) called on States and other entities not to relent in their efforts to prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence that harm the lives and dignity of countless women in conflict zones around the world every year. Australia issued a 100th anniversary commemorative coin.

The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2012 was “Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. In that year, Oxfam America invited people to celebrate inspiring women in their lives by sending a free International Women’s Day e-Card or honoring a woman whose efforts had made a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty with Oxfam’s International Women’s Day award. The Google Doodle for March 8, 2012 had an International Women's Day theme.

The UN theme for International Women's Day 2013 is "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”, while International Women's Day 2013 has declared the year's theme as “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum”.

2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which was sparked on March 8, 1917 by women protesting against bread shortages in St. Petersburg. These events culminated in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II on March 15. Worldwide celebrations and re-enactments are scheduled to begin on March 8, 2017. Among the organizers is the Ukrainian women's direct action group FEMEN, which aims "to shake women in Ukraine, making them socially active; to organize in 2017 a women's revolution."
On this day a global women's strike including a sex strike is planned, called by, among others, the International Union of Sex Workers.

United Nations (UN) efforts for Women’s Empowerment:


The UN declares an International Women's Day theme and for 2013 it is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”. In 2012 it was "Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty". Many organizations develop International Women's Day themes relevant to their local contexts. For example, the European Parliament's 2012 theme was "Equal pay for work of equal value".

Previous United Nation International Women's Day themes:

- 2012: Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty

- 2011: Equal access to education, training and science and technology

- 2010: Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all
- 2009: Women and men united to end violence against women and girls
- 2008: Investing in Women and Girls
- 2007: Ending Impunity for Violence against Women and Girls
- 2006: Women in decision-making
- 2005: Gender Equality Beyond 2005: Building a More Secure Future
- 2004: Women and HIV/AIDS
- 2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals
- 2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities
- 2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts
- 2000: Women Uniting for Peace
- 1999: World Free of Violence against Women
- 1998: Women and Human Rights
- 1997: Women at the Peace Table
- 1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future
- 1975: First IWD celebrated by the United Nations

Worldwide today:
  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  •  Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  •   Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
  •   Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.

IWD in World:

The day is an official holiday in AfghanistanAngolaArmeniaAzerbaijan, BelarusBurkina FasoCambodia, China (for women only), CubaGeorgiaGuinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, KyrgyzstanLaosMacedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, MongoliaMontenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, UgandaUkraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia.

In some countries, such as CameroonCroatiaRomania, Bosnia and HerzegovinaSerbiaBulgaria and Chile, the day is not a public holiday, but is widely observed nonetheless. On this day it is customary for men to give the women in their lives – mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, colleagues, etc. – flowers and small gifts. In some countries (such as Bulgaria and Romania) it is also observed as an equivalent of Mother's Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

In Armenia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union celebrations of IWD were abandoned. Instead, April 7 was introduced as state holiday of ‘Beauty and Motherhood’. The new holiday immediately became popular among Armenians, as it commemorates one of the main holidays of the Armenian Church, the Annunciation. However, people still kept celebrating IWD on March 8 as well. Public discussion held on the topic of two ‘Women’s Days’ in Armenia resulted in the recognition of the so-called ‘Women’s Month’ which is the period between March 8 and April 7.

In Italy, to celebrate the day, men give yellow mimosas to women. Yellow mimosas and chocolate are also one of the most common March 8 presents in Russia and Albania.

In many countries, such as in Armenia, Bosnia and HerzegovinaBrazilBulgariaCroatiaEstoniaHungary,Kazakhstan,LatviaLithuaniaPolandMacedoniaMoldovaMontenegroRomaniaRussiaSerbiaSlovakiaSlovenia and Ukraine the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women also sometimes get gifts from their employers. Schoolchildren often bring gifts for their teachers, too. In countries like Portugal groups of women usually celebrate on the night of 8 March in "women-only" dinners and parties.

In Pakistan working women in formal and informal sectors celebrate International Women's Day every year to commemorate their ongoing struggle for due rights, despite facing many cultural and religious restrictions. Some women working for change in society use IWM to help the movement for women's rights. In Poland, for instance, every IWD includes large feminist demonstrations in major cities.

Today, many events are held by women's groups around the world. The UK-based marketing company Aurora hosts a free worldwide register of IWD local events so that women and the media can learn about local activity. Many governments and organizations around the world support IWD.

70% of those living in poverty are women and Oxfam GB encourages women to Get Together on International Women's Day and fundraise to support Oxfam projects, which change the lives of women around the world. Thousands of people hold events for Oxfam on International Women's Day join the celebration by visiting the website and registering their events.

Google doodle for IWD

Commission on the Status of Women:

A global policy-making body, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.

Output of the Commission:

The principal output of the Commission on the Status of Women is the agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year. Agreed conclusions contain an assessment of progress, as well as of gaps and challenges. In particular, they contain a set of concrete recommendations for action by Governments, intergovernmental bodies and other institutions, civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders, to be implemented at the international, national, regional and local level.

In addition to the agreed conclusions, the Commission also adopts a number of resolutions on a range of issues, including the situation of and assistance to Palestinian women; and women, the girl child and HIV and AIDS. The annual report of the Commission is submitted to the Economic and Social Council for adoption.

India’s efforts for Women’s Empowerment:

In India, a UNIFEM (now UN Women)–sponsored workshop was the catalyst for change. In the southern city of Mysore, local residents used to trek five miles and wait two days to see a doctor at a private hospital. Since 2006, they have received medical treatment free of charge at the local government health centre, due to the work of Pushpavalli. She applied the skills acquired at a UNIFEM (now UN Women)–sponsored workshop on gender-responsive budgeting and convinced the authorities to allocate resources for the medical facility. The training attended by Pushpavalli is part of UNIFEM’s (now UN Women) work with governments and local organizations in four states of India to make elected representatives and civil servants aware of the benefits of including a gender perspective in budgets. In many cities, this has led to regular meetings between women, elected representatives and officials to ensure that women’s priorities are addressed in municipal budgets and plans.

UNIFEM (now UN Women) support for the Positive Women’s Network (PWN) in India has forged effective partnerships between the PWN, women’s groups, the National Commission for Women and the media. UNIFEM (now UN Women) and other partners facilitated and supported consultations with women’s organizations, HIV-positive women’s groups and government departments to draft a set of Gender and HIV Policy and Action Plan Guidelines for the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO).

UNIFEM (now UN Women) also worked with Indian Railways on an innovative outreach campaign for the 30,000 employees of its south-central branch, which is located in a region that NACO has identified as having a high HIV prevalence. The company is one of the world’s largest public sector employers and its workforce is highly susceptible to the virus because of its mobility. As a major component of the programme, trained peer counsellors circulated within the vast railway communities, offering gender-sensitive messages on HIV and AIDS prevention, care and treatment. A revolving fund also offered loans for essential expenses to women and families directly affected by HIV and AIDS. Funded and operated by Norway from 2003 to 2006, the programme is now run through the Women’s Empowerment and AIDS Prevention Society, which was set up to manage it, with support from UNIFEM (now UN Women) and the Railway staff benefit fund.

Some initiatives:
  •  The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women.
  •  The National Commission for Women (NCW) was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1990 to safeguard the rights and legal entitlements of women. The 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) to the Constitution of India have provided for reservation of seats in the local bodies of Panchayats and Municipalities for women, laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision making at the local levels.
  • India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights of women. Key among them is the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.
  • The Mexico Plan of Action (1975), the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (1985), the Beijing Declaration as well as the Platform for Action (1995) and the Outcome Document adopted by the UNGA Session on Gender Equality and Development & Peace for the 21st century, titled "Further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action" have been unreservedly endorsed by India for appropriate follow up.
  •   The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article14), no discrimination by the State (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16), equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)). In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. (Article 42).
  •  The Government of India (GOI) declared 2001 as the Year of Women's Empowerment (Swashakti). The National Policy For the Empowerment Of Women came was passed in 2001.

The United Nations (UN) is advancing UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, which is based on the simple but powerful premise that all women and girls have a fundamental human right to live free of violence. A sustainable future can only be reached by women, men and young people enjoying equality together. From the government that changes its laws, to the enterprise that provides decent work and equal pay, to the parents that teach their daughter and son that all human beings should be treated the same, equality depends on each of us.Parents should start respecting their own daughters. Today on International Women’s Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to women’s rights and move forward with courage and determination. Let us defend human rights, the inherent dignity and worth of the human person, and the equal rights of men and women.
"There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
"A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”

Happy Women's Day!!

According to you,what are the ways by which women empowerment can be done more effectively on ground level?

What are the major problems faced by women?What could be the effective solution for each problem?

How India and world can be made a better place for women?



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