March 8 is now designated as the annual celebration of the political, economic and social achievements of women who continue to struggle in so many countries to live on an equal basis with men. The day recognizes women's contributions, especially in the undervalued roles of keeping a home and raising children. Women must play the leadership role in building and sustaining families both in the social and economic chaos of the developed world and in the life-threatening turbulence and poverty in Africa and Asia. Women's Day has now become global and has been designated as a national holiday in countries which recognize that in so many ways, the real heroes of our time are not the newsmakers, but the half of humanity that carries half the weight of our future with so little daily recognition.
This day is the perfect time to celebrate the achievements of the past century in the valuing of women. It is a time also to think, if in the race for equal status, economic measures have begun to outweigh every other consideration. Perhaps, more importantly, it is a time to remember that in much of the world, this revolution in recognition and acceptance has only started, if at all. While many in the West can celebrate triumphs, so many women in the developing world can only celebrate surviving with their children, one more day. What can we do, on this day, to bring meaning to what has been achieved, and a measure of the distance still to go? Here are some suggestions:
- Educate yourself on the progress of the women's movement. Learn what has been achieved, what still needs to be done, what actions are being taken and where very little is happening. There are several websites dedicated to this. While in many societies, women already participate equally with men, there are still many societies where this is not the case. Your job is not to wallow in the problems, but to find your path to continue the changes.
- Participate in activities organized in your locality. Join parades and other activities organized in your locality even just to cheer the women who try their best to make the celebration more meaningful. Attend a forum organized around the issues confronting women today so we understand the issues that women face not only in our own locales, but the frightening challenges faced daily by a billion women, for whom your life is just a dream.
- Have a day of celebration. Organize a party in your office or in your home to celebrate the acts of courage and determination of women in the past and present, what they have done and continue to do to achieve equality of status with men. In your church, mosque, synagogue, ashram or temple, bring the women together to explore how you can reach out to other countries to give the poorest of women the hope of a chance for their children.
- Recognize women's roles in your own life. Look back in your own experience and review the influence women had in your own life. Thank them for their contribution. If they have caused some pain, try to stitch up that rip. Recognition brings to consciousness the effect women had on your own growth and being aware allows you to bring this to the surface so the positive can be recognized and the pain healed. Talk to your spouse, sister, mother, and grandmother about how their lives have changed so you get some sense of momentum in the achievements of all women at least in your society. If you have sons and daughters, include them in the conversation.
- Honor the women in your life. There are women in your home and in your office who will appreciate being noticed on this day. Let them know how much you appreciate them. You can bring them ALL a flower, treat them to a Women's Day Pauper's Lunch (beans only) at $5 each (or the equivalent in euros, pounds or rupees) with the money going to a local or international care agency for women and families. In other words, be creative in ways on how you can get involved.
- If parades and forums are not for you, read a book or watch a film. There are many books or articles on women who made history. Watch a film on the life of women and their struggle to be who they really are. One of the films really worth seeing is "Beyond Belief." UNIFEM, the United Nations organization working for women's empowerment and gender equality, promotes this film. It is the story of two widowed American women who moved beyond tragedy in a profound way by reaching out to the most desperate villages in Afghanistan. Don't let the daily barrage of images of poor women and children harden you. Close your eyes...listen to the words...if your great-grandparents came from poverty...without the courage of women like them, it would be our lives on the screen!
- Just hang out with women and enjoy them. Women are distinct from men in so many ways, so just by being with them, you become more conscious of the gifts that women are to our world. Then, it is a lot easier to celebrate this day. And don't sit whining and whinging about how bad things are. Do something. The lot of women in the world is so much more engaging and important than the petty inconveniences that most people able to read this "How To" will ever experience.
Whether you are a man or a woman, this day is still special. In each of our minds exists both a man and a woman, and in our lives, these two continue to interplay and balance our decisions. The more at home we are in both aspects, the more balanced we are as persons. The more healing takes place between men and women, the better it is for our world.
And, finally, Women's Day is a time to sing and celebrate what has been achieved. But it is also a time to reflect how few have really benefited from these great successes. Man or woman, it is your challenge as a human being to reach out to women worldwide. Think locally...act globally. You are not an island.