Imagine a world without coffee and your refrigerator is yet to be invented. The call waiting and caller id feature we exploit to their full potential today doesn’t exist. There is no concept of wireless transmission (wi-fi) and nobody knows a thing about science fiction. Urg! Sounds like a nightmare, right?
That’s what our world would be had women held themselves back because what they were doing was ‘probably’ unladylike. The discoveries and inventions of women range from computer algorithms, laser cataract surgery and chemotherapy treatment to disposable diapers, rollings pins and barbie dolls. It was a woman who designed the monopoly game we all love and it was a woman who developed the software that made the moon landing possible.
Every year on the 8th of march the world celebrates such women and many more like them in terms of their social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. It’s a commemoration of womanhood and all a woman is capable and eligible for. International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day to educate and raise awareness for women’s equality, call for positive change advancing women and lobby for accelerated gender parity.
In this article, I will introduce you to females with inspirational journeys. Those with invigorating energy. Women who are so strong that they are gentle, so fierce they are compassionate, so educated that they are humble, so disciplined they are free and so passionate they are rational. Women I work with every day. Women who can be exactly like the women you meet every day. Women like us. And thus borrowing the lines of the Great Abraham Lincoln, this article is of the women, by a woman and for everyone who supports women.
But before that, let’s understand why we celebrate this day, how we celebrate across countries and why there’s a need for it.
International Women’s Day: Inception & Celebration
International Women’s Day grew out of the labour movement to become a recognised annual event by the United Nations (UN) in the year. The seeds of which were planted in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote.
You may ask me, why the 8th of march? The reason takes us to the year 1917. It’s to memorialise the commencement date of the strike by a Russian woman, Tsar, demanding ‘bread and peace’ in her war-stricken country. She continued the strike for four days until forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.
Cut to 2023, different countries celebrate IWD with various initiatives and traditions. Let’s take a running glance over them.
International Women’s Day Around The World
IWD has been declared an official public holiday in Russia and Nepal while it’s a half day for working women in China. 8th of March is more commonly known in Italy as ‘la Festa della Donna’ and on this day, women receive bunches of bright yellow Mimosa blossoms, a tradition believed to have originated in Rome after World War II, as a sign of love, appreciation and solidarity. Being a food-oriented country, you’ll find cakes and pasta created with vibrant yellow colours to resemble the flower.
In Armenia, International Women’s Day is a national holiday and is also referred to as the ‘Day of Protection of Your Rights’. It marks the start of an unofficial ‘Women’s Month’, culminating in the queasily-titled ‘Motherhood and Beauty Day’ on 7 April.
Held over three days in London, including International Women’s Day, the Women of the World (WOW) festival features speakers, activists, and performers who come together to tackle the issues facing women globally. Founded in the UK, WOW now has sister festivals in other parts of the world, with discussions, talks, and exhibitions that intertwine and feed each other under one name.
But this is only one side of the coin. The view through the rose-tinted glass.
International Women’s Day Around The World: The Flipside
It was not too long ago that the Chinese authorities arrested eight women for planning a protest against sexual harassment on International Women’s Day. Furthermore, the authorities never shy away from promoting women’s beauty, thanking them for their “selfless” contribution to their family, society and country on International Women’s Day. Even the half day off on IWD exists only on paper.
There is little tolerance for feminist activism in Russia. Attitudes towards abortion remain oppressive in Poland, prompting International Women’s Day to become a day of pro-choice protest. In Turkey, International Women’s Day has been marked in recent years by women protesting against gender inequality, domestic violence and sexual abuse – demonstrations that have often received a heavy-handed response from authorities. And the case is no different in other nations like Argentina, Armenia and even the USA.
Coming home to India, we celebrate IWD with full zeal in corporate offices and universities but does the avidity stir some change beyond the walls of these institutions? Speaking on behalf of all Indian females, I feel we, have a long way to go regarding women’s rights in terms of political, economic, social, technological, cultural and legal stands. I’ll help you get a myopic view of the situation and understand the graveness with the help of data.
India & Its Women
The following data is as per the report of the Indian Economic Advisory Council To The Prime Minister. This report was published in October 2022.
- As per the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 of the World Economic Forum, India ranks 135 out of 146 countries. The report remarks that only 22.3% of women in India participate in the labour market, leading to a gender gap of 72%.
- India has one of the highest rates of female foeticide in the world. The Census of 2011 has recorded the lowest-ever sex ratio of 914 in the age group 0-6 years with 3 million missing girls; from 78.8 million in 2001 to 75.8 million in 2011. The child sex ratio has further declined from 927 females in 2001 to 919 females for every 1000 men in 2011.
- 68% of the children admitted to programmes for the severely malnourished are girls while 55 % of women in India are anaemic.
- 35.6 per cent of Indian women are chronically undernourished, with Body Mass Index (BMI) lesser than the cut-off point of 18.5 and 55% of women in India are anaemic. A quarter of women of reproductive age in India are undernourished with a BMI of less than 18.5 kg/m till 2016. Undernourished mothers give birth to low-birth-weight babies, triggering an intergenerational cycle.
- Lack of infrastructure in schools acts as a factor detrimental to availing education, especially for female students. Only 54% of schools have functional hygiene facilities (toilet, drinking water and hand washing). Furthermore, 30% of the 2326 constructed toilets in schools across India were non-functional mainly due to lack of running water and cleaning arrangements, damages to the toilets, and other reasons like the use of toilets for other purposes. Due to these reasons, females tend to miss out on school an average of six days a month, eventually leading to about 23 per cent of them dropping out of school. The impact this phenomenon has on their potential workforce participation is massive.
- The present contribution of women to the GDP remains at 18%, however, simply by offering equal opportunities to women, India could add US$ 770 billion to its GDP by 2025.
Yet, with all these odds and innumerable more, Indian women have emerged out of the shadows and been a guiding force. Once they discovered how fierce they are, not even were they able to hold themselves back as the fire within them burned brighter than their fears. Let’s get to know some of these remarkably passionate women.
Coco Chanel said that a woman should be two things; who and what she wants. Ask yourself what would you do if you weren’t afraid and then do that. Choose to no longer be apologetic for your femaleness and your femininity. Know that your enemy is not your lipstick but your guilt. We deserve lipstick if we want it and so goes for free speech. We can be soft-spoken or assertive or whatever we want. We are entitled to wear cowboy hats in our own revolution.
One such woman who stirred a revolution in her own life is Shama Mubarak.
Shama started her career at a call centre then worked as a youtube optimiser and joined Healthify as an SEO specialist to now acquire the role of Product Operations Associate. Talking about her career trajectory and how she overcomes her random bouts of self-doubt, Shama tells us that any opportunity to learn new things and expand her knowledge and skill sets keeps her going.
“I’m proud of the fact that I was open to the new prospect of SEO back in 2015 and it is years of experience in this field that has helped me be where I belong”, shared Shama.
Your mission in life should not be merely to survive, but to thrive and to do so with some passion, compassion, humour, and style. And our Rashika Poonacha is the person who comes to my mind when I say this.
In her role as an IOS developer at our organisation, Rashika feels women are afraid to choose coding, as they are under-represented in the tech industry, particularly in leadership roles. She recommends young females to “seek out communities and networks that support women in tech and you just find where you truly belong”.
“It is challenging, needs long hour work sometimes, and can struggle with work-life balance, but if one believes in their skills & abilities they needn’t be afraid to take challenges” says Miss Poonacha
Alpa Momaya, head of research and development of product shares that to shatter the glass ceiling, the first step she took was to take charge of her own career. “For that, I had to upgrade my skillset and be open to new ideas. My career took a halt when I became a mother, yet I stayed resilient, joined Healthify as a coach, and gradually paved my way up to where I am today without giving up.”
She suggests that if you find yourself restrained by the glass ceiling, don’t hesitate to speak up. Find out where the glass ceiling prevails in your organisation, gather feedback and find allies to support you. Alpa feels women need to master new skills, be patient and confident, and be ambitious, to make their goal a reality.
“We need to realise the only thing stopping us from achieving our goals is our own self. The willingness to do something or the inclination to achieve something matters a lot. And once that is done, there is no looking back.”
Finally, the senior executive talent acquisition, Apurva Manohar, is of the view that with opportunities comes threat in every field but women today are bold enough to make decisions for themselves and walk out of what’s wrong. It is high time now that women should hold their sleeves up and take challenges. Only then the environment supports such thoughts and behaviour. It goes with the art of manifestation.
“To empower women in the workplace, our organisation is working on menstrual leaves and other necessities such as sanitary pad dispensers in washrooms.”
Our name, HealthifyMe speaks of our mission to transform a billion lives and we are resolute to do that not just in terms of health and fitness but the overall growth of society with women being our torch bearers.
Note from the writer
I started writing this blog as a routine part of my job. Little did I know that it would impassion me about IWD to this extent. Don’t get me wrong when I say that this day seemed like just another WHO initiative to me before I got down to write this article, I shall remain indebted to. The hours of research that we, as content writers at healthify put into writing articles is always exhaustive but it has never been more exhilarating and emboldening. I feel more proud to be a woman than ever before. And thus, this piece of content is for all those who have courageously stood up for themselves and our sisters, those who spoke up, those who fought and continue to fight silently, and even those who do not speak because they were taught to ‘respect’ fear more than ourselves. We have been taught that silence would save us from the worst. Will it? Ask yourself.
I will leave you to ponder over this with a poem by Maya Angelou