March 8th is being celebrated as a holiday by women’s groups all over the world to honor their achievements in their perpetual struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
For centuries it has been the dream of ordinary women to be treated fairly and to participate in social activities just as their counterparts did. Yet, "liberty, equality, fraternity" were out of reach. Only at the turning of the 19th century with the French women’s demand for suffrage, the first steps were taken.
Since then, women have taken serious strides.
One early major step occurred in 1945 when the United Nations charter was drafted to include a description of all women’s rights regardless of color, race or religion.
Following this development, many women’s rights organizations began to emerge – all with the original goal of protecting women against the evils of society. These organizations, however, did not stop there as they began setting their sites on fighting for greater women's roles in all social sectors.
Today a serious battle in the Arab world is being waged by women's rights supporters against "crimes of honor," prevalent in many Arab countries. These are crimes when a male family member kills a female relative believed to have committed some sexually immoral act, such as adultery. (In Jordan, the fourth woman was reportedly killed in an honor killing this year.)
Today, UNESCO has issued a special proclamation in order to put an end to it. According to the Al Quds al Arabi of today, the Moroccan daily L’Economist has nominated a man for the post of Editor in Chief of the paper, in protest of The International Women’s Day. Until now, a woman has held this post!
Nevertheless, great achievements have been made in the Arab women’s struggle for equal rights. Today, a group of Kuwaiti women demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Justice protesting Parliament's refusal to grant equal political rights to women.
Another courageous step has been taken by a group of Egyptian women professors who traveled from Cairo to Lebanon on Tuesday in order to join their Lebanese colleagues on this special day and celebrate it with them - yet, protesting the fact that they have always been the ones to bear the burden of taking care of their families when the husbands got arrested for political activities when Southern Lebanon was under curfew.
On this International Women’s Day, a great achievement by the women of the world - Algeria (11 groups), Egypt (6 groups), Iraq/Iraqi Kurdistan (3 groups), Islamic Republic of Iran (17 groups), Palestine (6 groups), Jordan (24 groups), Lebanon (6 groups), Morocco (64 groups) and Yemen (35 groups) are proudly taking part in the Canadian World March of Women 2000. This is no simple matter, especially in light of the still unfortunate fact that Arab parliaments are dominated by those against extending the rights to women.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)