“I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the river to create many ripples” –Mother Teresa.
She was right. One cannot alone change the world but can set a series of events in motion that are tested by time but protected by the wisdom of the past we see in future generations.
It is the efforts of many such women that echo through time and cultivated into what we celebrate as women’s day on 8th of March.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Choose To Challenge”. The day celebrated to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
On women’s day it is important to remember the efforts of various women who contributed to making the dream of equality a reality.
Alice Paul felt that suffrage was just a first step for women. In 1920 she declared, “It is incredible to me that any woman should consider the fight for full equality won. It has just begun.” Convinced that women needed an equal rights amendment, Paul organized her National Woman’s Party to focus on getting one passed. In 1923, the amendment that Paul had drafted — called the Lucretia Mott amendment — was first introduced in Congress.
Another great activist was Maud Wood Park who not only aided female voters as the first president of the League of Women Voters, but she also helped form and chaired the Women’s Joint Congressional Committee, which lobbied Congress to enact legislation favoured by women’s groups. One law that Park and the committee pushed for was the Sheppard-Towner Maternity Bill (1921).
For African American women, getting the vote often didn’t mean being able to cast a ballot but, Mary McLeod Bethunea well-known activist and educator, was determined that she and other women would exercise their rights. Bethune raised money to pay the poll tax in Daytona, Florida, and also taught women how to pass their literacy tests. Bethune’s activities didn’t stop there: she founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935 to advocate for Black women. And during the presidency of Franklin D Roosevelt, she accepted a position as director for the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s work for women began long before her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt won the presidency. After joining the Women’s Trade Union League in 1922, she introduced Franklin to friends like Rose Schneiderman, which helped him to understand the needs of female workers. When Franklin won the White House, Eleanor used her new position to support women’s interests; even the press conferences she held for female reporters helped them in their jobs.
As we remember women who turned the course of history, one name that can never fade away from our memories is Malala Yousafzai. In 2012 at the age of 15, Malala Yousafzai, was shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan. The assassination attempt was a response to her stand for the right of girls to gain an education after the Taliban had banned them from attending school. She is now one of the world’s most iconic female change agents and in 2014 became the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Yousafzai leads pioneering change in attitudes towards women, children, inequality and education in Asian countries.
The work of many such women is a reminder to what has been achieved in the field of equality and what is yet to be achieved. It is their work which is immortal and is still celebrated in the form of Women’s day.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” – Helen Keller