Honouring women as they seek meaning in their lives
March 8, 2001
PEOPLE around the planet will pause on this International Women's Day to review the situation of the feminine gender and to try to assess whether half of humanity has made sufficient progress along the road to full emancipation. And, as is descriptive of the general human condition, there will be found astounding advances by women contrasting with pitiable states of abuse, brutal servitude and mind-numbing poverty.
The beginning of the third millennium finds women more highly educated and more politically savvy and wiser in the workings of national and international affairs. More and more women are breaking the glass ceilings of statecraft as against riding on the jacket sleeve of deceased husbands and fathers. They are slogging through the marshes and minefields of party politics and are showing themselves to be more intellectually brilliant than male colleagues.
In Europe today, approximately a dozen women lead political parties or hold senior ministerial positions in national governments. And the growing acceptance that women must comprise at least 20 per cent of the candidates for elected offices in municipal and national elections will result in a greater number of women having a voice in the civic processes of their countries over the next decade.
In the world of big business and finance, legions of women are showing their mettle by being wizards at manipulating stocks and shares and dot-com businesses. Women are holding their own, too, in medical and scientific advances and are being recognised and honoured for their brilliant research achievements.
Women continue to play a critical role in world food production from the fields of agriculture to the processing and packaging of food products. They are still the mainstay of most of the nurturing professions such as nursing, teaching, childcare and care of the elderly.
What is most remarkable is that whether they are biological scientists or humble farmers, they carry out these roles in addition to their basic commitments of bearing and rearing children and homemaking.
But in spite of these wonderful and worthy achievements, women continue to face brutal acts of violence sometimes directed at them in the home. They are exploited and enslaved as unwilling sex workers; they are subject to genital mutilation in some cultures; in other cultures where family honour is more important than a woman's feelings, they are routinely killed by male relatives if they are raped or if they engage in consensual sex.
In some fundamentalist societies they are denied the opportunity to practise their professions; and they are fair game for rape and brutal treatment when war wages in their countries.
Too many poor working-class women are unfairly burdened with the task of rearing children without the assistance of men. The single-parent household is blamed for many of the errant and wayward youths who make up sizeable portions of societies in the West Indies and the inner cities of developed countries such as the United States of America and Canada. Forced by circumstances to be the mothers who `father' their children, these women are allowed little respite in the daily grind to provide shelter and sustenance for their offspring. Unfortunately, when they have raised their brood they are sometimes forced to start the process all over again for their children's children.
Today on this International Women's Day we salute all women and wish them continued strength in their quest for equity and a meaningful existence.