Bread and Peace______By: Sarwat Najib

(Not only a Slogan but the Soul of International Women Day)

International Women’s Day (8th March) is an event set apart by women’s gatherings around the world. This date is additionally honored at the United Nations and is assigned in many countries as a national holiday.
Tradition sees man honoring women, mother and wife, colleagues and fellows with flowers and small gifts occasionally. For instance, the equivalent status of Mother or Valentine’s Day. Exchanging of small gifts and celebrating parties are quite common now, but in fact IWD (International Women day) has a long history of struggles and unity of women. After the WWI most women had no choice but to work closely with men in order to support their families. In addition to that, they used to work either in factories or provide domestic services to richer householders and/or formed family businesses. Many women also carried out home based jobs such as finishing garments and shoes for factories, laundry or preparation of snacks to sell in markets or grow vegetables and herbs in kitchen garden to sell; this was in addition to their unpaid work at home that included cooking, cleaning, and child caring.
Women started getting right to work in 1850s and onward in UK, even women from upper and middles class families expected yet to get married and look after their children and home. Saying that, doors for involvement in all professional fields such as to be a teacher, lawyer, doctor, civil servant and etcetera remained closed to women through 19th century. From 1850s onward the trade union established in UK excluded women. The biggest historic strike that helped to change world and shape women’s lives happened in Byrant and May match factory in London in 1888. The strike was caused by the poor working conditions in the match factory, including fourteen-hour work days, poor pay, excessive fines and the severe health complications of working with white phosphorus, such as phossy jaw. The strike was started by 20 girls but was set off with approximately 1,400 women and girls refusing to work by the end of the first day. The strike lasted for 3 weeks and ended after all female workers met their all demands including forming the workers union.
The second historic strike was set off in 1908 in New York when female garment workers went on strike against the working condition in the factory. Following that, in 1909 the first women day was observed on 28 Feb by the Socialist Party of America in the memory of garment factory strike in New York. So, here women started realizing their basic rights, recognition, reorganization, and honor and dignity at work.
In 1910 the Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, set up a Women’s Day, worldwide in character, to respect the development for women’s rights and to help with accomplishing general suffrage for women. The proposal was welcomed with consistent endorsement by the conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries, which incorporated the initial three women elected to the Finnish parliament.
In 1911 subsequently of the decision taken at Copenhagen the previous year, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. Notwithstanding the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work, to professional and vocational training and to an end to segregation and discrimination at work. A political slogan “Bread and Rose” was actually the line of the speech given by Rose Schneiderman that “worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” inspired by the title of poem Bread and roses by James Oppenheim. The phrase is commonly associated with the successful textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, during January–March 1912, now often known as the “Bread and Roses strike”
In 1917 with 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian women again picked the last Sunday in February to strike for “bread and peace”. Political pioneers contradicted the timing of the strike, yet the women went on at any rate. The rest is history: after four days the Czar was compelled to renounce and the temporary Government conceded women the right to vote. That memorable Sunday fell on 23 February on the Julian calendar then being used in Russia, yet on 8th March on the Gregorian calendar being used elsewhere.
1975 known as International Women Year, not only because the United Nation began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8th March of that year, but also, An effective Women’s Day was the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike which paved the way for the first female president in the world, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. She was the first democratically direct elected female president of Iceland of exactly sixteen years. Finnbogadóttir also remains the largest serving elected female head of the state of any country to date. Currently works as the UNESCO Good Will ambassador.
In 1995 a historic roadmap was signed in Beijing by 189 governments that each women and girl can exercise her choice such as participating in politics, access to education, having an income and living in societies free of violence and discrimination. IWD celebrated its centenary in 2011, the even held exactly 100 years ago in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland.
In many countries IWD is a national holiday; yellow mimosa flowers and chocolate are the symbol of Women day.
Although the day traces its history to the early 20th century as a result of socialist movement, but there is still a long way to go. Saying that, the biggest number of 13 billion poor are made by women, they still receive 30-40% less pay than men for the same work even countries like USA, UK and other developed European countries. Furthermore, they are still day-to-day’s victims of different kind of violence including rap and other abuses. IWD is not a day of celebration but revolution and evolution, the day of struggles, standing and surviving.
Talking on behalf of all women, I don’t hesitate refusing to accept the mimosa flowers and chocolates once in 365, but my basic rights, the right that has given to me by the same Lord that men claim to have belief in. Most religion particularly Islam explicitly states that Heaven lies under the feet of a mother, daughter is a blessing, sister is happiness and wife is a caretaker of the entire family, and the first teacher and trainer of the children beside of all those nine months fighting for two lives every moment. However, this is what most men claim to believe in but in practice its vice-versa.
However, as said by Elvira Meliksetyan “I think a girl can do anything! She just needs to believe in herself”. So, women shall continue walking on the road paved by women a century ago, because no one gives the right but it shall be taken. Am proud to be a feminist, if God gives me a second life with a choice, I proudly prefer to be a woman because God created man with power but woman with love even though she makes the world beautiful with her hard work, struggle and care.
Happy International Women Day with a hope for a better future for Women.


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