Since the early 1900’s, International Women's Day has grown from an American political movement to a global day of recognition and celebration observed in developed and developing countries alike. It is officially recognised as a public holiday in 28 countries, and although less popular here in the Netherlands, International Women’s Day was well observed by our partner organisations in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
In Bangladesh, our partners BDMW and BCHRD organised a 2 day long programme based on this year’s theme ‘Inspiring Change’. Thanks to the media coverage received, over 200 participants attended the event and many more have become aware of the events and cause since then. Those who attended paraded through the city of Dhaka from Shahbag to the Dhaka Engineer’s Institute carrying colourful banners which demanded an increase of protection for women. They also chanted slogans which called for equitable treatment and justice. In addition to the march, many influential people gave speeches to those who assisted her legally in the aftermath. However, she also mentioned her continuing dissatisfaction with the ongoing discrimination she and other Hindus face in the predominantly about the need to protect women’s rights in Bangladesh. A young woman, who was gang-raped when she was 15, shared her experiences and expressed gratefulness to those who assisted her legally in the aftermath. However, she also mentioned her continuing dissatisfaction with the ongoing discrimination she and other Hindus face in the predominantly Muslim country and encouraged them to become more aware of their rights.
In addition, the executive director of BCHRD as well as a representative of BDMW and an advocate also from BDMW expressed their concerns over recent atrocities against minority communities in different parts of the country. They also demanded the immediate arrest of perpetrators responsible for committing crimes against women and children. The advocate from BDMW also spoke of the 160 recent attacks on Hindus that have mostly gone unpunished. He also spoke of the need to protect the rights of fleeing women and children as set out in the UN Declaration under General Assembly Resolution 47/135 of 18th December, 1992 and encouraged them to become more aware of their rights.
In India, our partner NGO, MVK, located in Bihar organised 4 days of events for International Women’s Day. The women of villages in the region were taught about their human rights and awareness of issues such as violence against women was raised. MVK used many different approaches to educate and reach women from all walks of life, for example they held a variety of cultural programmes. They also hosted talks and speeches by various important people working in the field of women’s rights. In addition, they also staged plays in certain corners of the villages, with the aim of re-enacting instances of violence against women in public and thus educating women that they can stand up against this as well as shaming the men into not committing this crime.
Additionally in India, our partner NGO, Jabala, located in West Bengal, celebrated International Women’s Day in 2 local districts. They aimed to raise awareness of human rights violations which included, but were not limited to child marriage, human trafficking domestic violence and female foeticide. In Murshidabad, over 250 girls took part in a 2.5 km rally through Baharampur. The march ended with all the girls signing a pledge to resist child marriage and be cautious of the abuses they may face, such as trafficking and domestic violence. They then handed this to the district authorities. The event was widely covered by the media which meant that the outreach of raising awareness about International Women’s Day was spread further than expected.
In Pakistan, our partners celebrated International Women’s Day in different ways across the different regions. PEAD focused on celebrating the social, economic and political achievements of Pakistani women. PEAD engaged with women from all sectors of society in a variety of events in order to raise awareness of their importance in Pakistani society and encourage them to act as harbingers of change. For example, students performed role plays in order to stress the positive role of females in society. Additionally, the President of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Peshawar was honoured as the Chief Guest and spoke at the event underlining that although ‘women’s equality has made positive gains, the world is still unequal’. She, as well as other speakers, stressed the importance of women in the socio- economic development of the country. Participants of the event also paid tribute to the women of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for their sacrifices and called upon the government to provide equal social, economic and political opportunities to the women so they may exploit their capabilities in an effective manner.
Additionally in Faisalabad, Pakistan, our partners HRFP held a rally which attracted over 200 participants in order to protest against all forms of discrimination against women. Furthermore, many renowned speakers gave motivational speeches encouraging women to stand up for their rights. Women and girls also sang songs stressing the need for female empowerment and read poems related to the subject of women’s rights. The women participating in the events directed their grievances to provincial and federal government officials and decision makers and demanded social, political and economic justice. The whole event was covered by the electronic and print media thus creating more awareness of women’s rights in the country.
GHRD is actively engaged in the promotion and protection of minority rights, women’s rights and the rights of the children and for this reason International Women’s Day is of great importance. GHRD aims to enhance civil society participation and to empower and strengthen the identities and self-esteem of marginalised women in society as well as encourage human rights activists that reach out to grass roots communities. On a broader level, the events held on the UN International Women’s Day are of great significance to GHRD as they allow the world to become aware of the discrimination of women in other countries and more importantly, show how women in other countries are empowering themselves. Additionally, of the of the UN aims of International Women’s Day is to allow women to come together from all over the world and realise that they are not alone in their fight for gender equality, a goal which GHRD supports fully.