Saturday, 5 March 2011

International Women's Day Centenary 1911-2011

Exactly a year ago, I wrote one of my first blogs on International Women's Day (IWD), sending my best wishes to the many women friends, events and networks that were going to get together.

This year IWD is celebrating its centennary. There are glossy websites displaying events around the globe (Australia has 210 alone). IDW is on March 8th and is now a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future. It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements, without regards for divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political. The history of International Women's Day which started in Europe at a time of great expansion, booming population and (financial, economic, social and environmental) turbulence ~ mmh, sound familiar ~ is worth a read.

In the next day or so, women around the world will be attending dinners, they will listen to an inspiring speaker and celebrate one another. Over in New York women from around the globe are gathering for the 55th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the annual fortnight long event to discuss progress on gender equality and on initiatives that advance the cause.

Our friends over in Europe are gathering in the Hungarian capital Budapest to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, by joining "Women in Science, Innovation and Technology in the Digital Age", a Joint High-level Conference organized by the European Commission's Directorate-General Information Society and Media (INFSO) and the Hungarian EU Presidency and ECWT, sister centre Asia-Pacific Centre for Women and Technology ~more about that later. Our EU friends are taking advantage of the 100th anniversary of Woman's Day by taking a look forward and focusing on female talent in the Digital Age: how to measurably increase women's presence across the board  in education, research and innovation, entrepreneurship, workforce and leadership roles. 

Last year I mentioned some women's empowerment slogans and the UNIFEM Women's Empowerment Principles, waxing lyrically about us gaining momentum as the topic is on everyone's agenda. 'We are rocking!', I wrote.  'Or are we?'  And I quote:

'Soon after I (with great trepidation) posted my first blog back then, I read a piece in the Saturday Age (Insight, pg 3) on Germaine Greer, that rousing woman who wrote The Female Eunich and set women on a path of feminism in the 1970s. The writer, Gabrielle Coslovich reports on an article (written by a man) in The Monthly which describes Greer as demented grandmother. Coslovich, to her credit, brings in other voices such as Eva Cox who says "It's a very different world to the one we grew with, but not nearly different enough". Women should have done more to challenge workplace structures. Should have, could have, but we didn't. And we still don't today'.

'How painfully pointed the article was. Women still earn less money than men, the workplace has become even more macho, we reward workaholic tendencies and all we talk about these days is economics. The language used in the World Economic Forum 2007 report, writes Coslovich, is all telling. They sure have gotten the point that gender-based biases are detrimental to today's global economy, but there's no point empowering women to provide them with opportunities to develop to their full potential in the knowledge economy without looking at the bigger picture. We can't go on the way we are. We can't just slot women into positions to be the engines of economic growth'.

'What do we really need to work towards? A shift away from an economy-centric worldview, a new work(place) culture and ethic, education (for both women and men), sustainable development practices towards individual and community health and well-being, and the right type of information that builds our long lost self-esteem and worth. This is a tall order fraught with difficulty and reflecting on my own social conditioning' ~ end of quote. 

We are a year on and I still miss my mother, but I am optimistic. Why so, you may wonder when violence is against women is worse than ever, when economic and social equality is nowhere in sight?

What is different today is that we are building momentum. This week's IWD gatherings are no tea and scone parties. They are powerful events stocked with powerful women from powerful women networks who have come together through the power of  technology (ICT). That's what makes this era different. It may not seem significant yet to the average onlooker, but it an instrumental and integral component of the shift towards feminised markets. It is based on network linkages, collaboration and social media, connecting thousands of women ~ and more importantly their networks. Mark my words, ICT-enabled women's empowerment is about to take a huge leap forward. But let us take great care to be inclusive in the transition towards more female values, seeking neither domination nor revenge.

How I'd love to be a fly on the wall in 3011 ~ Happy Centenary !

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