Celebrating the wonders of women 

Tomorrow women around the globe can raise a glass to themselves and toast International Women's Day. Whether a homemaker, mudwrestler, or international diplomat, women may still be underestimated, but crucially they no longer underestimate themselves. 

International Women's Day was first inspired by American garment workers who had marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights at the turn of the century. While Women's Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration, sadly some of those same issues are as relevant today as they were more than a century ago.

Thus tomorrow in Afghanistan some 40 women in the Afghan Air Force will be recognised for their struggles in maintaining a career in the Afghan Air Force; In India's Amritsar, a registered charity will provide sewing machines to widows and poor females to enable them to make a living.  In Bulgaria a photography exhibition will celebrate women as an object of inspiration, a muse: In Israel a documentary will focus on the thousands of young Eastern European women trafficked into the world of sex slavery.  In Nigeria a women's organisation is  looking to provide loan facilities for women traders in a bid to transform women's lives through economic empowerment; In Australia, Carers Victoria celebrates the work of 777,000 unpaid family carers across the state  - 77 per cent of whom are women.

Whether the day is a celebration or a call for action, women throughout the world  have embraced this day - the common denominator is sisterhood.

We are blessed in Ireland that women now enjoy opportunities to be educated, to gain employment, to be accepted in the workplace, have opportunities to be promoted, and, importantly, to choose.  But have women gained true equality? Women are still targets, scapegoats of random acts of violence, of small-minded bullies - some 62 per cent of bullies are men and 58 per cent of targets are women - from governments who fail to recognise women’s contribution to the economy, and religions that fail to accept that women - the "carers" in society -  can also administer  spiritually.  We may have female cabinet ministers, but are women represented equally in politics? Are women paid equally to men?  Can women achieve in the workplace without prejudice? Even in New Zealand, the first country in the world to give women the vote and a country well respected internationally for promoting women’s rights, women hold only 9.3 per cent of the board roles in the top 100 companies on the New Zealand Stock Market and only 21 per cent of senior management positions.

   So let us celebrate women's achievements, the changes that have taken place over the last century, but continue to be mindful of the inequities still to be addressed. 

   Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady failed to understand why a woman could not be more like a man. Silly man, women need only be themselves . That is enough - no, more than enough, just perfect.  

Linley MacKenzie

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