On 8 March 2008, women all over the world have celebrated the 98th International Women’s Day. About 15,000 women had protested in New York City in 1908 against excessive labor exploitation and little remuneration. They had demanded shorter working hours, better wages, and the right to vote. The current women movement remembers their courage and agenda which they had forwarded 101 years ago. The actual situation of the majority of women in most of the countries has not improved substantially even today. Women’s plight has not changed better even today. However, women’s status in urban parts of the world has improved in education, health and employment.
Women, known as the half-sky, are the vital components of the overall development process. It is true that much has been advocated and something has been done. When we see the women’s conditions in the most advanced countries, their political representation is still surprisingly low. Questions definitely arise in this context. Don’t the women want to get involved in politics? Do the mass media and policy designers prefer to confine women to beauty and glamor industry?
When the first International Women’s Day was celebrated on 8 March 1911 in Copenhagen by Clara Zetkin, Leader of the’Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, women leaders had stressed on the need to increase women’s political representation. Nevertheless, the status of women’s political representation has not improved even after 97 years.
Somen women have definitely climbed up top political ladders. But they have not been able to genuinely represent women’s concerns. For example, Indira Gandhi of India represented her father Jawaharlal Neharu. Women leaders in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka still represent the male-dominated status quo. They have not been able to provide any remarkable leadership to bring about powerful changes based on gender equity concept.
This shows the need to clarify the meaning of political representation of women. Mere physical representation of women in the parliament and the government does not guarantee women’s genuine represenatation. so far most of the women who have reached political power have utterly failed to represent women. Women represenattion is more concerned with issues and agenda of women rather than the number of women’s heads.
Indeed, gender disparity is directly related to humanity. Therefore,it is a human rights issue and should be advocated accordingly. Gender equity universally agreed upon in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent treaties and protocols is the best approach for mainstreaming women in all the countries. But presenting women movement as a separate rivalwar strategy based on ultra-feminist dogmatism may be tantamount to cultivating more discriminations. Although there are many important elements in feminism from which all have to learn much, contributing to feminism as a dividing line may be counterproductive in the long run.
For equality between women and men, there is no better ideology than the UDHR. Will nations be determined to implement their universal human rights commitments to create gender equity. This is something worth remembering on the day of the International Women’s Day.