This year’s edition of International Women’s Day has come and gone, in Tanzania generally without incident, and the countdown to the next one has begun.
It all looks much more of routine than anything else, yet the whole thing revolves around an issue of immense consequence touching on the roots of human development and civilisation.
The idea of an IWM has a long history, some records showing that it dates well back to over two centuries ago. The manner in which it is marked has undergone massive transformation over the years, with differences noticed across territorial borders and cultures to this very day save for the very formal occasions organised by the likes of United Nations agencies and other national, regional, continental and international organisations.
But while it would be the height of madness to doubt the seriousness of the United Nations in promulgating the 1948 International Declaration of Human Rights, which reiterates the sanctity of the equality between men and women, the situation on the ground tells a completely different story.
Sadly, when it comes to acts, practices and behaviour that add up to the flouting of the principles of human equality and dignity, both industrialised and developing nations have their share of the blame.
It is partly for this reason that we subscribe to suggestions that using awareness and education campaigns promises to be among the most effective ways of ensuring that respect for basic human rights carries the day across the globe.
We are also both inspired and motivated by those people and institutions whose intervention has helped break barriers making it hard for women to enjoy their basic rights to the full or participate fully and meaningfully in decision-making and other important processes and activities in their respective communities and the outside world.
There is incontrovertible evidence that the thousands of events held every IWD chiefly to showcase the economic, political and social achievements of women play a key role in inspiring millions of minds into working for the betterment of the lives of women and, by extension, making the world a better place to live.
The common practice is for organisations, governments, charities and women’s groups around the world to choose particular themes each year reflecting global and local gender issues.
A sample of such themes: ‘Empower rural women - End hunger and poverty’, ‘Equal access to education, training and science and technology’, ‘Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all’, ‘Women and men united to end violence against women and girls’, ‘Ending impunity for violence against women and girls’, ‘Gender equality beyond 2005: Building a more secure future’, ‘Women Uniting for Peace’, ‘Women at the Peace Table’, and ‘Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future’.
As often noted, whichever side of the fence one is, the bottom line is that the advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women’s issue.
If we all remembered this as we marked this year’s IWD yesterday and are truly committed to translating it into concrete action, our Day will have been excellently spent.