March 8, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. This is a great time to take stock of your accomplishments (regardless of gender) in making the world a place where justice, equity, fairness, and opportunity prevail. Women have achieved success in the professions, in business, in government and in the media yet there is still ground to cover.
A couple of years ago, I found myself at a beautiful resort in Cuba on International Women’s Day. Oblivious to its significance — as too many women and men may be — I was surprised when I was greeted in the breakfast restaurant by a glass of champagne, a chocolate-covered strawberry and a rose. Why? I was told enthusiastically that this was International Women’s Day and these preludes to morning coffee were in honour of my role as a woman. As I spoke with the staff member, I learned that there would be a celebration in the ballroom later in the morning to honour all female staff members. I asked if I could attend and was assured that guests were welcome. As over 200 chamber maids, waitresses, desk staff and other women who worked at the hotel gathered, each was given a corsage. The manager then gave a speech — in Spanish– that was punctuated by many cheers and noisy revelry. People left the room inspired, acknowledged and honoured.
I was dumfounded as I had never experienced anything near to this type of celebration in Canada. In fact, International Women’s Day is hardly acknowledged at a workplace in Canada and certainly not celebrated. I vowed never to forget this important day. In retirement, I now have even more reason to celebrate as I can reflect on the changes that have occurred for women since 1966 when I first entered the paid work force as a social worker.
Although is the place where many men may stop reading, please don’t. Because International Women’s Day is not only about women. Men can celebrate too — and should — after all it’s about your daughters, wives and mothers. Don’t be afraid — the journey is not just for women. It is a human journey. Here are some ideas to consider as you go ahead with your day:
- Engage your family, friends and neighbours in conversations about women’s contributions to spread peace and prosperity in the world.
- Acknowledge and celebrate the political, social, and economic achievements.
- Don’t forget those important achievements in nurturing children and holding families together.
- Recognize important women in your life who have empowered or inspired you — mothers, sisters, friends, coworkers, bosses — we all have our role models.
- Educate yourself about women’s health issues — especially mental health issues often caused by sexual violence — that are often left untreated and then create life-long shame. Recognize that many mentally ill women can’t access proper treatment and that their families often abandon them.
- Do something slightly irreverent in your day to create laughter in your soul and to shed the seriousness with which this day is sometimes treated and to remind yourself to celebrate. Enjoy the day! Have fun with it!
- Support a female artist and consider the hurdles she encountered on the journey to success.
- Free yourself from the constraints of fashion. Check out the labels in your clothes and consider the lives of women workers labouring in sweatshops overseas to make those designer jeans, the stylish t-shirt. Conditions in many clothing factories are characterized by unethical production with few, if any labour standards.
- Look deeply into the eyes of women with whom you associate and recognize the tiredness of so many women who carry heavy loads of responsibility in the workplace and with their families.
- Buy and handful of roses. Give one to yourself and hand them to women you meet today — a simple and random act of kindness to build awareness.
- Remember the exploited and missing aboriginal women of Canada. Social justice has not yet reached all women and many aboriginal women are unfairly marginalized.
- Recognize the role of unions in fighting for continued equality in the workplace.
- Honour a lesbian couple and celebrate that Canada allows gay marriage — that’s equality!
- Donate to a charity that supports women and children.
- Tell your story to one of your children. If you are a male reader, tell your children their mother’s story and let her listen to how you respect and value her accomplishments.
- Remember the female soldiers serving in Afghanistan and other violent flash points in the world. They serve with dignity and deserve our gratitude.
- Honour a young woman and encourage her so she can develop the self-confidence to achieve beauty beyond clothes, make-up and hair styles. Support her to reach her inner potential.
- Think pink — honour a woman who has conquered breast cancer or who is fighting cancer.
- Honour a woman entrepreneur and recognize the foresight and ambition of women succeeding in business.
- Watch women’s sports and cheer for those great athletes in hockey. Acknowledge that Canada will host the next women’s FIFA world cup — yeah!
- Remember those women who are abandoned in institutions — old women in nursing homes who have out-lived their close family members and women in conflict with the law warehoused in prisons.
- Promote activities to combat HIV/AIDS — at home and abroad.
This list is just a beginning. Make a commitment to become a change maker so that one hundred years from now, on the 200th anniversary, people will wonder why this day was needed. All of us — especially when we are retired and not faced with the daily obligations of a career — can change the world through a feminine wisdom. Strong women — strong world!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. The postworksavvy vision for men and women alike is to gain inspiration from these posts to achieve the destiny of a successful retirement. If you like my writing, please consider becoming a subscriber and send your comments.