Women’s History Month: or maybe not?
By: Shubhangi Mishra
When we talk about Women’s History Month, we speak of the achievements of women throughout history. However, what we fail to mention is the fight against the discrimination that has been going on behind the curtains for an extraordinarily long time and persists. Women have been an essential part of society ever since the beginning of time. But they also had to fight for equal opportunities and continue to do so. With evolution, one would assume that every barrier that women had to face in the past, would be over by now. Yet we continue to be discriminated against, tortured, traumatized and questioned every step of the way.
The month of March is considered to be Women’s History Month which is specifically celebrated to honour women and recognize their contribution in different fields, as their work is often overlooked and less valued in comparison. This month’s origin can be traced back to International Women’s Day, the struggle for which was led by a German communist activist and women’s rights advocate, Clara Zetkin. It came into existence in 1910 when the Second International Socialist Women’s Conference was first observed on March 19, 1911. Later, March 8 became the official International Women’s Day. It has been predominantly celebrated in the USA, the UK, and Canada. Following this, some schools of Sonoma County in America further pronounced March as the month that would solely focus on acknowledging and rightly appreciating the contributions of women towards development and their history. Women’s history month also explores the issues and struggles that women had to go through in olden times which includes Sati practice that took place in India for an extended time. Women’s history month remembers and pays homage to women of colour and queer women who were outcasted by society due to their skin colour and sexual orientation. The contribution of Dalit women such as Sulochanabai Dongre for bringing in significant changes in the status of women in India is also recognized and honoured.
In America and the United Kingdom, women’s history month is recognized by showcasing important exhibits by women in museums. Additionally, many rallies, youth-led events and interviews with influential women are also organized. In India, women’s history is commemorated by emphasizing the contributions of women from all backgrounds but specifically those from minority communities. Throughout history, women have fought many challenging battles to get the right to vote, the right to equal pay, and many other rights which the male population is privileged enough to have without any questions being asked. And the fight is still on.
During these tough times, when the entire world is struggling with the coronavirus, women were working hard at the frontlines contributing equally towards research for a vaccine, treating patients and managing their personal lives, dealing with the trauma-induced during these tough times, and combating the discrimination that is accompanied along with these. In 2020 itself, women-led countries like New Zealand, Germany, Finland, Bangladesh and more showed a lower rate of death. America elected a woman as its vice president for the first time. Two women won the Nobel Peace Prize in Chemistry. The instances of different women triumphing in various fields in the year 2020 alone are uncountable.
However, the number of crimes perpetrated against women is a figure which can easily rival the one above. It has been estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have to experience sexual harassment in their lifetime. A saddening amount of crimes against women took place in this month itself. The United Kingdom saw a very heinous crime against a woman named Sarah Everard on 3 March 2021, who was kidnapped and murdered by a police officer when she was leaving her friend’s house and her remains were found in woodland near a town called Ashford. This incident left a very prominent impact on the people and raised serious concerns over the safety of women. This case is indicative of the fact that appreciating our achievements for a month isn’t enough if we cannot even be safe at any point in time. Similarly, hate crimes against Asian women have also increased which can be seen by the shooting that took place in America. On March 16, 2021, a mass shooting took place at three spas in Atlanta. This resulted in the death of eight people in total out of which 6 were women. In addition, many women of colour have also been subjects of racial discrimination. This resulted in their achievements being undermined.
This may raise one question, does it make sense to appreciate women for a month while they become victims of monstrous crimes all year long. India saw similar cases of rape against a three-year-old little girl who was raped by her uncle. Another rape case involved an eight-year-old Dalit girl who was raped by a 70-year-old man. A report by World Population Review shows that India suffered 22,172 rapes per 100,000 citizens in 2020. These are just a very few handpicked cases that depict how women of all ages are vulnerable to all sorts of crimes.
It is necessary to realize that while women’s work is recognized, we also need to feel safe under all circumstances. As young girls, we are never taught about the hardships the world has for us nor do we expect that we will have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition as our male counterparts. When we do voice our opinions, they’re often disregarded or not taken into serious consideration. It is important to give us our space to tell our truth. When we demand equality, it is necessary to understand that we are only demanding what is rightfully ours. Thus, it is essential to include the agenda of equality among young children from an early age by making efforts to teach the young and the old about the impact of women in history and the present as well. It is necessary to honour the women of the past but also important to protect the trailblazer women of today.