The International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This Day has been observed since the early 1900's. According to the International Women’s Day (IWD) website, oppression and inequality incidents motivated women to be vocal, later leading to a protest march in 1908 in New York and later in 1909 the Socialist Party of America declared that the first National Woman's Day (NWD) be observed across the United States on 28 February and women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913. The IWD website reports that in 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs - and including the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament – greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.
Since then most countries have always celebrated the day, with some declaring the day an official holiday including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women's network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women's Day. Many organisations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others. Although the day has not yet been declared an official public holiday by the government of Botswana, different government departments, parastatals, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and the private sectors usually hold their own commemorations nationwide to highlight the plight of women and celebrate women in general.
What local activists say
Bagaisi Mabilo – BOCONGO Executive Secretary
Mabilo is of the view that the gender movement locally has done a lot as far as advocating for equality for women is concerned especially the amendment of laws. What the country should now pledge, according to Mabilo, is political commitment. She said that what BOCONGO Gender Sector is specially asking for is the government to consider giving women affirmative action in all sectors including politics and economic commitment to it.
Maud Dikobe – Lecturer at UB
Dikobe is of the view that Botswana government should commit to giving 50/50 opportunity in decision making. Though some propose the quota system as an alternative which can be considered, Dikobe disagreed, saying in order for change to take place there has to be a change to the status quo. She said government should also try and avoid the pipe line syndrome when dealing with women by applying a blanket approach, according to Dikobe every case/ individual is different from the other and should be treated as such. Dikobe is also of the view that government should pledge to empower the youth. Youth empowerment, she says, is necessary and will give young women’s voices and platforms to be heard. She suggests that government should involve the youth at every level, including when going on international benchmarking trips.
Ida Mokereitane – BOCONGO Gender Sector
Mokereitane suggests that government should pledge for the upliftment of the status of women in every aspect through affirmative action and quota system. According to Mokereitane, although the government through the department of gender affairs and other departments was doing something it is still not enough. Most importantly, she says, government should make efforts to uplift women economically and politically as it was evident that the country was trailing far much behind in this field.
Gomolemo Rasesigo – Gender links Country Manager
Rasesigo believes that Botswana should pledge for parity for women in decision making. This, she says, is important especially those in Cabinet and Parliament as this is where all decisions are taken and these are the very decisions that impact on women negatively because their voice is minimal. According to Rasesigo, there is also a need for the political will to review the constitution and make it gender sensitive and do away with blanket statements.
Electoral reforms, according to Rasesigo, are long overdue, as they will ensure that the marginalised groups are represented as well. Rasesigo says Botswana also needs to pledge for economic parity between men and women, especially those from female headed households. “Our economic reforms need to be gender sensitive. It is not enough to say people should go into construction as an example and not empower them to become efficient constructors,” Rasesigo says.