March 8 is International Women’s Day. The International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world to reflect on the advances towards equity made by women everywhere and to look ahead to the challenges that remain.
It is also a day of international solidarity, and a day for reviewing the strength and organization women. But this is not a special day for women alone, even men should see it as equally remarkable.
The International Women’s day started well before 1910, and by 20th century, women in industrially developing countries were entering paid work in some numbers.
This was in reaction to the fact that there was sex segregation, mainly in textiles, manufacturing and domestic services where conditions were wretched and wages worse than depressed.
The first International Women’s day was held on March 19, 1911 in Germany, Austria, and Denmark and in another European country.
This date was chosen by German women because, on that date in 1848, the Prussian king, faced with an armed uprising, had promised many reforms, including an unfulfilled one of votes for women.
A million leaflets calling for action on the right to vote were distributed throughout Germany before International Women’s Day. The date was not chosen at random. The German picked the day because of its historic importance for the German proletariat.
On the 19th of March in the year of 1848 revolution, the Prussian king recognized for the first time the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising.
Among the promises he made, which he later failed to keep, was the introduction of votes for women. From that day, the day is not only celebrated but used to assist women push their political and socio-economical struggle further.
Indeed for quite a number of years now, the International Women’s Day has also been seen as a time for asserting women’s political and social rights. It has also been a day for reviewing the progress that women have made and a day for celebration.
Many of the changes that took place were meant to check the political restrictions that were imposed on women. These changes however met a number of resistances.
It is not clear if men now understand that this day is not exclusively meant for women but for them too.
There has been a common saying that, “all days are meant for men and only one day, is reserved for women in a year.”
If this attitude is still in the men’s mind, then we have a problem. Women cannot be separated from men in the social setting. It has been equally and poorly conceived by women and men that the fight for women, emancipation is exclusively meant for women.
The two assumptions are completely wrong and detrimental as far as women emancipation is concerned. The emancipation of women directly leads to emancipation of men and the society at large. How do you work alone when you are a man in a family and you expect the family to prosper?
Men are the primary perpetrators of violence against women. They should also be regarded as critical partners in eliminating it. Men in this course should be viewed as members of families and communities and as people involved in upholding or changing social norms.
For sure, everyone has a role in protecting women’s human rights. Women’ right are universal rights! You lack the necessary woman power that would push you to the necessary living standards, then as a man you are in trouble.
It’s now time for women and men together, to evaluate why they have not been able to empower women as planned via-avis men. The success recorded too, must be evaluated. And what has been gained in the emancipation battles so far battles considered?
As for the case of Rwanda, the question of women’s equality, and the question of whether women could take part in government alongside men will soon be history.
Rwanda has gone a big step a head the women’s day is not only meant for celebration but to put a mark on the achievements reached so far. Something tangible at least, can be evidenced and we do not need to talk much about it.
But some other issues/questions remain standing and they need attention; why do we still have violence and rape against women?
Why do women living in rural where women continue to be overworked and underprivileged?
Can we empower all women? And if women are told about their rights, is it enough?
Do they know how to benefit from their rights? Rights alone are not enough; we have to learn to make use of them.
For example, Sexual abuse and violence are serious problems that transcend political, economic, and social lines.
Women are aware that it is against their right to be raped; nevertheless, Violence is frequently directed toward females and children. These are the most vulnerable groups in our society that cannot easily resist the violence.
Despite strong punishments put in place which range from long term imprisonment to life imprisonment, rural women continue to experience abuses in the form of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.
There are limited accurate figures due to little research that has been done on the issue in developing world for obvious reasons.
Cultural mores against reporting abuse make it difficult to assess accurately, and few adolescent health programs in sub-Saharan African address these critical issues.
One of the challenges that we face as we celebrate the International Women’s Day is that we are failing to stop violence against rural women.
It is the rural women that are illiterate, poor and therefore susceptible to violence and rape. Our main concern therefore should be the rural woman!
If we continue the trend of generalising the problems of women, we risk creating a gap between the rural illiterate and therefore poor, with the urban literate and well to do women.
That is how the differences between men and women were created. After realising that there were real social economic problems, the developing countries started addressing them in unison.
They never thought of the less privileged until recently. The collective answering of developing countries poverty greatly left the women behind.
This was because, apart from the poverty, women had some other social and traditional prejudices that never gave them room to match men in the vanguard of development.
The same applies to the rural women. They are in the same van with other women in the socio-economic and political positive trend we are seeing today, but they cannot be on the same footing.
Special attention in more practical terms must be put in place to check the balance. It is the attention of the vulnerable that will erase the dichotomy between the privileged urban and the deprived rural women that will lead us to our intended end.
This could be done through positive discrimination by, exempting the children of the rural women from paying school fees, admitting them in schools with low marks, etc, so that they access one of the most important instruments of development which is education.