Friday, 11 March 2016

Why it is still very important to celebrate #IWD and its core messages

Oh, WHAT a week!

I spent the last five days celebrating International Women's Day with events, debates and festivals and for all its pros and cons, for all its detractors and supporters, my doubts and my faith, I can say from the bottom of my heart that I have thoroughly enjoyed the ride. I have networked, I have learnt, I have met an incredible bunch of interesting and dynamic people ( not only women Imhasten to add!) and I have had lots of fun too. 

The thing is, over the last 30 years I have seen this International celebration go from strength to near death to being reborn as a Phoenix from the ashes. Growing up in Italy I used to celebrate the Festa della Donna by joining some local feminist parade and receiving mimosa flowers according to the Italian tradition. But that was pretty much the end of it and although it meant something to me, nothing much was happening on a tangible, political or indeed societal level. Arriving in the UK in 1993, the disappointment was even worse though, as absolutely nobody celebrated, indeed knew about it as far as I could see. But over the last decade or so there has been a massive resurgence and IWD has gained a new lease of life, probably thanks to a number of concurrent drivers, such as economic crisis; political/refugees crisis; skills scarcity and war for talent; corporate social responsibility; the broader diversity agenda. All of this and probably much more, including extensive celebrity endorsement. 

But why should we care still, in 2016? 
Well, I am not going to repeat all the various bits of arguments, from inequality to pay gap, which have been discussed and written about at length over the last week and before. All those arguments absolutely stand and I bet you could recite them by heart.

The fact is, as some say, if we limit ourselves to a day, a day in 365 that make up a year, are we actually perpetuating the idea that we, the women, the other half of this planet, are in fact a minority? Should we not, as a matter of fact, believe that every day is international women's day? 

It is a valid point, but in my view not valid to the point of undermining the very existence of IWD.
It is a little bit like saying to a Christian that there is no point in celebrating Christmas because everyday we should celebrate Jesus. Or stop celebrating your birthday because everyday we should rejoice at our being alive. 

The fact is, everything that matters need to have a focal point, a greater momentum and an anchor. That is what IWD is for millions of women worldwide who want to see change, equality of opportunities, recognition. As women, we want that everyday, but here is a day ( indeed a week and possibly a month !) when we come together to really make noises about it and shout it from the roof top together with those important others ( i.e. Men!) who share our goals and hopes. Luckily there are an increasing number of them and we need them all because ultimately, as I have heard more than once this week, women issues are human rights issues are mankind issues. 
Besides, even if most people have forgotten this or never knew it, IWD was born out of a real incident, that took place in polish mines, when a bunch of women died due to terrible working conditions. Terrible working conditions still exist for millions of women worldwide, while on the other hand many millions too are not allowed to work.

There is still a lot of work to be done. Those who say that parity has been achieved have yet to waken up to the real world, would probably never spend two minutes thinking about it, and that is why having a focal point is important. As and when we can say 'mission accomplished' I will be the first one to shelve plans for celebrations. But until then, long live IWD and may this grassroots power, dynamic energy and great enthusiasm continue to engage the millions long after the actual day. Undoubtedly, we need all the help we can get! 

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.

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