- HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:
International Women’s Day 2009
International Women’s Day 2009
Worldwide – but where in Chiang Mai?
Since its birth in the socialist movement in 1911, International
Women’s Day (IWD) has grown to become a global day of recognition and
celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades,
IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United
Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international
efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and
economic processes. 1975 was designated as ‘International Women’s Year’
by the United Nations. Women’s organisations and governments around the
world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale
events that honour women’s advancement and while diligently reminding of the
continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is
gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
IWD is now an official holiday in China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan,
Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia,
Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. The tradition sees men
honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers
and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother’s
Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift
in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality and
emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have
been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well
the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the
boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical
mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of
life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate
fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male
counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or
politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against
them is worse than that of men.
However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and
prime ministers, schoolgirls are welcomed into university, women can work
and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of
IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the
negatives to a celebration of the positives.
And, on March 8, 2009, the positives will be celebrated worldwide – and
But here in Chiang Mai, or even in Bangkok, a Google search reveals not one
publicised event. That’s right, not one! Although, given the difficulty of
getting advance notification of any happening in our beautiful city which is
not organised by expats, there will, quite possibly, be women who do mark
this annual celebration of our achievements over almost 100 years. However,
for NGOs working with minorities, and to the minority and poverty-stricken
women themselves, however aware they may be of this significant date in the
female calendar, what is there, in truth, to celebrate? Yes, in fully
developed countries, women can become prime ministers, astronauts, CEOs,
lecturers, etc, but here in Thailand? True, there are a large number of
female university students these days, with not all by far studying for
hotel and tourist-related degrees. SMEs and even large businesses do have
women owners and even CEOs. But most Thai women who have managed to crack
the glass ceiling have also had to take the decision to remain single. Not
just because of pressure of work against marriage and children, but also
because their male counterparts are uneasy in their presence, making it
almost impossible to develop successful long-term relationships.
And, for the single mothers, the poverty-stricken, the minorities – the
thought, much less the reality, of equality through diversity must seem as
far away as the countries in which it is now regarded as the norm. For the
Kayan, with their brass neck rings, penned up in tourist villages with their
children. For the Shan and Burmese women living in hastily erected shacks in
which we would not even house our dogs. For the mothers in poverty, single
or not, who recognise that their daughters have the ability to benefit from
a good education and a university degree, but will never have the funds to
provide it. The trap springs shut yet again.
Maybe it isn’t surprising that this very special day does not seem to be
celebrated here. Surely, though, those of us who are aware of its
significance should at least celebrate by thought, or even by donations of
time or money, the large number of both expat and Thai women, particularly
the volunteers and the various groups such as Zonta, Soroptimists and
Rotary, who contribute expertise, love, time and actual cash to educate,
support and encourage disadvantaged women and their children.
Thailand is regarded as a ‘developing country.’ Development should embrace
all citizens, at all levels of society. It is often said by women that they
represent the largest minority group in the world, yet we all have the
potential for development, both personal and in the sense of outreaching
within our communities, however narrow or wide these may be. International
Women’s Day, even without specific events, reinforces that sense of
development by its very existence. Had we been born 100 years ago in what is
now referred to as the first world, we would probably have experienced what
so many women in so many countries are living through in the present day.
Women’s equality in diversity, worldwide, has a long way to go. Not just
here in the Kingdom, but in Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, rural
China, Cambodia, India, Myanmar – anywhere where women are not able to reach
their true potential through social, religious or financial and educational
Chiangmai Mail Publishing Co. Ltd.
189/22 Moo 5, T. Sansai Noi, A. Sansai, Chiang Mai 50210
Tel. 053 852 557, Fax. 053 014 195
Editor: 087 184 8508
E-mail: [email protected]
Administration: [email protected]
Website & Newsletter Advertising: [email protected]
Copyright © 2004 Chiangmai Mail. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.