Women have seldom complained that international women’s day have ended up becoming a capitalist agenda, with companies offering sales and discount on food, makeup, clothing, etc. International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8, ends up being just a token event, where leaders suddenly remember the strength of women, and glorify the sacrifices make by them. Moving away from this, on IWD 2023, women took it upon themselves to celebrate this day in unique and empowering ways, breaking gender roles assigned at birth, and highlighted the contributions made by women in different spheres of life.
Reported from Marine Drive in Mumbai, a group of feminists could be seen holding placards and singing songs of empowerment. Videos of the group singing the song ‘Awaaze Do’, penned by Javed Akhtar all those years ago, reminded us of the essential role that women have played in revolutions, starting from our fight for independence. These feminists, including women in their late 50s and early 60s, took to the streets to show us how women’s day can be transformed into a day to highlight the struggles of our country, and demand for women rights.
The group can be heard singing these lines:
“Woh kehte hai haath mei trishul rahe talwar rahe,
Ek unki ek humari, iss mulk mei awaze do,
Ab tumhare upar hai kiski suno.
(They say that there should be a sword in every hand,
In this country, there are two voices, one is theirs, one is ours
Now it is up to you, who will you listen to?)
Many women could be seen holding placards too. Some demanding rights for women labourers, some destroying gender norms, some holding signs for the right to love without judgments, equal rights for all and freedom from violence in the name of honour and religion. These women brought out the true beauty of solidarity, the essence of a day dedicated to women who lived and died fighting for women’s rights.
Another march has been organised today, on March 9, from Vashi station to Shivaji Chowk, Vashi. The agenda of the rally is three leveled. The first agenda is to demand proper usage of facilities granted by the State, such as the Nirbhaya trust fund, which is not being fully utilised by the state. Secondly, through the march, the communally divisive nature of the laws, policies and resolutions being passed against inter-caste marriages will be discussed. Thirdly, the march will bring out the issue of double victimisation of women who are subjected to sexual assault. The norm in our society to blame the woman, who is a survivor of sexual assault, by judging her clothes, her religion, the religion of the attacker, her relationship with the attacker or character assassination. Through this march, the women aim to demand freedom from judgment, so that more women are encouraged to come forward with their stories of sexual assaults, without the fear of being judged and blamed.
The march was organised by Stree Mukti Sanghatna, Maharashtra Mahila Parishad, Alert India, Vishwa Balak Kendra, Maharashtra Hawker’s Association, Parisar Sakhi Vikas Sanstha, Navi Mumbai, Swayamsevi Samanvay Sanstha, Yuva Anvay Vyasanmukti Kendra, Ghar Hakka Sangharsh Samiti, Samta Mahila Mandal, Chetna Foundation, We Need You Music and Drama Circle, Shramik Janta Sangh, Resource and Support Centre for Development, Life Ananta, Maharashtra Andh-Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti, Lok Seva Shikshan Sanstha and the A.B. Janvadi Mahila Sanghatna.
This is their poster:
A women’s car rally was organised ahead of International Women’s Day in Odisha’s Bhubaneswar on March 5, 2023. It was organised by Seva Prayas Foundation, where hundreds of women joined the rally to celebrate womanhood, by ditching societal gender roles, and highlighted the important issues of acid attacks and need for equity. It had unique themes like “Embrace Equity, Digital All, Stop Acid Violence”. Some women also drove scooters in the rally. The rally flagged off from Aditya Mahindra Motor in Bhubaneshwar to Satasankha in Puri (around 45 kms).
Medical camps, health seminars, walkathons, and fun events were organised in Visakhapatnam to commemorate International Women’s Day. The city police had organised an eye camp at the Regional Eye Hospital for women police officers. The camp was attended by approximately 150 women police officers. The Indian Medical Association-Women Doctors’ Wing (WDW) conducted state-level women’s day celebrations that witnessed participation of women from various fields. Speeches were made at the event highlighting the diverse roles women take in day to day life and excels in respective arenas. Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) also celebrated Women’s Day at their office by organising medical camps for its women employees at all of its zonal offices.
These unique ways of celebrating International Day highlighted the struggle that women have had to even achieve the smallest of the victories, and the journey that women are yet to make. Two years ago, during the farmer’s protest against the discriminatory and un-constitutional farm laws, thousands of women protesters had driven tractors themselves, and headed for Delhi from various districts of Punjab and Haryana to reach the national capital for a congregation to mark International Women’s Day. The fire in our heart has not extinguished. From singing songs of freedom and independence, to highlighting the importance of health check-ups, these unique events were symbols of solidarity and resistance.