By Mubarika Sami, UK
It’s difficult to say exactly when International Women’s Day (IWD) began; its roots can be traced to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours.
A year later, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the US on 28th February in accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America.
In 1910, Clara Zetkin – leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany – introduced the idea of an International Women’s Day. She suggested that every country should celebrate women on one day every year to push for their demands.
A conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries agreed to her suggestion and IWD was formed. In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19.
In 1913, it was decided to transfer IWD to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since. The day was only recognised by the United Nations in 1975, but ever since it has created a theme each year for the celebration.
March is Women’s History Month, a number of organisations have set up events around this time to highlight inequality.
On Saturday 5th March, around 10,000 women marched in London as part of the ninth annual Million Women Rise march. This takes place on the weekend before IWD every year, and brings together thousands of women marching to end male violence against women.
On Sunday 6th March, women marched in London as part of Care International’s Walk In Her Shoes. Annie Lennox, Bianca Jagger and Dr Helen Pankhurst led the event that celebrated women’s achievement across the globe.
The original aim of the day – to achieve full gender equality for women across the world – has still not been achieved. A gender pay gap persists across the globe and women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics. Figures show that globally, women’s education, health and violence against them is still worse than that of men.
On IWD women across the globe unite to force the world to recognise these unacceptable inequalities. At the same time we celebrate the achievements of women who have overcome these hurdles. Shockingly in the UK women still do most of the unpaid work – 4.3 hours a day compared to men’s 2.3 hours. The figures are worse in India for example where women spend 5.8 hours on unpaid work compared to men’s 0.9 hours.
It is an official holiday in a number of places including: 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.
One of the greatest wastes of women’s time and energy in many developing countries is the problem of daily water collection. Too often, women still have to fetch water from unimproved sources such as rivers and ponds. They often walk great distances to collect enough for all their family’s domestic needs; the chore limiting their opportunities in terms of schooling and livelihoods.
On this day we would like to remember Inspiring Muslim women through history. Hadhrat Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) was a rich and successful businesswoman who was the first wife of the Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be on him). She was also the first Muslim.
Hadhrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) who was married to the Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be on him) after Hadhrat Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) passed away, was renowned for her intelligence and later became a great scholar about whom the Holy Prophet (Peace and Blessings of Allah be on him) said “Learn half of faith from Aisha”.
The first person to build a university was an educated Muslim woman, Fatima Al-Fihri in 859 CE in Fes, Morocco. It was the first university to award degrees and open both to Muslims and non-Muslims.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim women’s auxiliary, Lajna Ima’illah, is marking this day by giving out hampers to women’s shelters with a campaign entitled “Love From Lajna”.