As a child growing up in Mexico looking at the celebrations of the 8th of March, I never really understood the true meaning of it. My teachers in primary school were greeted with “Happy women’s day” and a bouquet of flowers or a little gift, and were allowed to leave work early that day. And why not, if it was their special day, after all? My mom, who was also a teacher would come home with those flowers and gifts and cards, and they would sit in our home, and I would look at them without knowing why this day was so special.
Mexico is not the only country that has commercialized the date, similar celebrations can be seen in Poland where women are given tulips, or the United States where similar gestures take place and guests speakers might be invited to schools.
As I grew up, I learnt that this day is about women’s rights and the older I get, the more I understand why a day like this is so necessary.
International women’s day was officially recognised by the United Nations in 1975, however its origins go back much further to around 1908 and 1911, when women were demanding better work conditions and the right to vote. Since then, a lot has changed: in many countries women now have access to education, contraceptives, the right to vote, the right to work and the right to interrupt pregnancy to name but a few of the most famous victories of the women’s rights movements. It’s true, there has been changes. But to celebrate with the words “Happy women’s day” and a bouquet of flowers does not seem adequate or appropriate given the reality of women around the world.
To say Happy women’s day in Mexico where according to a report from Amnesty International, 10 women per day are victims of femicide is not enough.
To say Happy womens day in Ireland, where 6% of women have experienced sexual violenceis not enough.
To say Happy womens day anywhere in Europe where according to the European Commission, women earn 14.1% less than men, is not enough.
Today is not a day to celebrate past victories but to look forward, to keep fighting and to raise our voices to make those who do not want to hear, hear us. Today is a day to start uncomfortable conversations because we need to, because equality and other basic human rights are not granted to women around the world. Yet.