International Womens Day 2017: Ready to Be Bold For Change?
After some preceding events such as women’s march around Bundaran Hotel Indonesia last Saturday on the 4th March, simultaneously with other marches around the world as well as various activism for women’s rights and gender equality on social media, today the 8th March is the culmination of those beautiful efforts as we celebrate the International Women’s Day.
Globally International Women’s Day poses an important opportunity for action that will trigger change for women. Originally it stems from 15,000 women came on the streets in New York City back in 1908 to demonstrate protests against long working hours and less pay and request for voting rights. Soon after that, other countries endorsed a concept of dedicating a day to celebrate achievement of women. International Women’s Day was then acknowledged and celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975.
This year’s theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”, emphasising the need to #BeBoldForChange. It flags the call for people to put efforts to make a more gender inclusive world, in line with the UN’s SDG 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
What does it mean for us in Indonesia though?
First, we need to bear in mind that International Women’s Day is not targeted for women only, but men are so much welcome to celebrate this day too. To this extent, we must embrace the active participation of men to also support the idea of women’s empowerment. We need to challenge the dominant narrative in Indonesia where men are generally perceived to hold the power and empowered women are considered a threat to this system.
Empowerment refers to a process to enable individuals to maximise the opportunities available to them without constraints (Rowlands, 1997). When a woman is empowered, she could leverage her resources and capabilities to the point where she makes strategic life choices as equally as man does. An empowered woman does not disrespect men, instead she would respect men as much as she respects other women because she believes in gender equity and social justice. In this context, men have no reasons to feel threatened at all, instead women and men will complement each other in fulfilling their own tasks, roles and responsibilities. Thus, we must first #BeBoldForChange by pushing against the dominant narrative that International Women’s Day is just another female matter.
Secondly, to #BeBoldForChange means to grow a stronger sense of self-love regardless a woman’s relationship status (single, taken, married, or divorced) and stop shaming one’s self for being different from others. In Indonesia, marriage is commonly deemed as a must-do thing for women, basically after they finish their education obligations. However, in impoverished rural areas of Indonesia, unfortunately girls are more vulnerable to child marriage where many married girls do not even complete education beyond primary school level. Indonesian people are conditioned that a woman is acceptably secure when she finds her partner in life through marriage and unconsciously shaming those who are different from the mainstreamed pathways. We must then look within ourselves, to take a step back from the busy crazy world around us and reflect on our own judgements that a woman’s self-worth is not defined by her relationship status.
When we are bold for change, we are brave to do what we believe even if it means challenging conventional wisdom, but not to forget reflective introspection to be critical of our own assumptions and judgements too.