When there will be no need for a Women’s Day - Hindustan Times
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When there will be no need for a Women’s Day

Mar 02, 2024 01:03 AM IST

What are we celebrating on March 8, International Women’s Day?

This is for the one who turned up for football practice, leaving her mohalla with her dupatta modestly draped over her salwar kameez to avoid neighbourhood gossip, changing to shorts only at the grounds and then changing again before returning home. Every day.

Noida, India - October 29, 2021: All women e-rickshaw drivers iniatiated by DMRC and ETO Motors at Sector 62 Electronic City metro station, in Noida, India, on Friday, October 29, 2021. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times)
Noida, India - October 29, 2021: All women e-rickshaw drivers iniatiated by DMRC and ETO Motors at Sector 62 Electronic City metro station, in Noida, India, on Friday, October 29, 2021. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times)

This is also for the one who walked out of her abusive marriage when her husband hit their daughter for the first time. She washed utensils to survive while taking driving lessons on the side in the hope that it would lead to a financially secure job.

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It’s for the mother who had forgotten what the inside of a classroom looked like when she enrolled her daughter into special classes so that she could clear the class 10 board exams. When the daughter passed, the mother was inspired and thought, I can do this too. Giving herself a second chance, she joined the classes and cleared the 10th board exam, nearly 18 years after marriage brought an end to school.

Courage does not have a one-size-fits-all. It does not only involve jumping into the river to rescue a drowning child. It is not only to be found in those unrelenting human rights defenders who will battle all the way to the Supreme Court to win the basic rights guaranteed in our Constitution.

Sometimes it’s just being a girl and navigating your way through the daily hurdles that someone—a parent, a neighbour, a relative, or a classmate—places before you. Heroism is the mother who insists that her daughter will not drop out of school to marry. It is the girl who shows up on the playground to set up a ragtag cricket team (they play in chappals, but that’s another story).

Sometimes the simple act of falling in love can be heroic, especially if it’s someone not chosen by parents and who happens to be born in a faith or caste or gender or gotra or bank balance deemed inappropriate.

Every day, women and girls are fighting infinitesimal battles that will never be recognized. There are no medals for them. It is likely that you will never know their names. And yet, they are both changing India and are a reflection of a changed India. An India where aspiration is no longer a bad word for women, an India where more girls than ever are enrolled in schools and colleges.

It’s easy to lose sight of this, given the challenges that remain and the new ones that crop up not just at home but globally. In Palestine, mothers struggle to feed their children. In the US in a bizarre time travel backwards, women are fighting for abortion rights they won 51 years ago. From wage gaps in the world’s most developed countries to equal representation in politics, it is clear that the fight for gender equality is far from over. As the World Economic Forum reminds us, gender parity at its current rate is still 131 years away.

So, really, what are we celebrating on March 8, International Women’s Day? After all, shouldn’t every day should be Women’s Day or, to put the question another way, maybe no day should be Women’s Day because there is no longer any need for one.

But as things are, beyond the token speeches and ribbon cutting, we need a day to remind ourselves that there are battles yet to be won and those not even begun.

We need it to salute the rebellions fermenting in the world. The day commemorates both the widow who won’t weep for her husband’s death and vows to carry on his legacy to oppose a tyrant and the health worker in India who sits in protest to demand fair wages. It is to remember how far we have come and how much we must still travel.

Above all, it is to pay tribute to our unsung heroes, even if we don’t know their names or their stories. That football player I spoke about in the first paragraph? She’s now a coach and serves to inspire girls in her mohalla. The one who was learning to drive now has a job as a bus driver in Delhi. And the mom who cleared her 10th exam in the second chance programme, dreams of graduating, just because she can.

Namita Bhandare writes on gender. The views expressed are personal

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Namita Bhandare writes on gender and other social issues and has 25 years of experience in journalism. She has edited books and features in a documentary on sexual violence. She tweets as @namitabhandare

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