I loved the post by Rachel about International Women's Day, because it totally captures the spirit of that day in Europe... with a few exceptions.
Across the continent, women were given discounts in stores and restaurants and handed free flowers everywhere, from the shopping malls in Tartu to airports in Vienna. I was hiding out in my room doing homework, so I did not get to partake in these festivities, but my friends here did and so I heard all about them.
I thought I would research what this incredible holiday was about. It is recognized by the United Nations, and in some European countries it is a national holiday. According to the UN history site, it officially started in 1909 with the American Socialist Party. Then, it was an effort to recognize the value of working class women across America, and to break down the discrimination and prejudice that women faced in their daily lives. Today it is a day to celebrate simply being a woman, and for everyone to celebrate the women in their lives.
I love this holiday.
In the former USSR states, it is a very big deal. My roomate, Olesea, is from Moldova and it was partly her idea to have a dinner in our flat in celebration of women's day. She was explaining the traditions in her home country to me while she cooked (it took her about five hours and the food was incredible! I'll post the picture once its up on facebook). In Moldova, it is incredibly important that the guys give all of their female friends (especially their girlfriends) small gifts on this day. In high school, she said, you would walk into the classroom and the boys would already have put presents on the desks where the girls usually sat.
It is celebrated now especially as an opportunity for women from all countries to be strong in the face of a history (and present reality) of oppression because of our sex, and for men to push against their own stereotypes by celebrating women just as they are.
I was thinking that I would love for this holiday to get big, and I mean BIG, in the USA. This thought came to me because I remembered my dance teacher from Elementary school, and how in church on Mother's Day sunday, all of the mothers would get carnations, and I always gave her one, too. She didn't have any children, so she didn't have a day to celebrate her womanhood, and I believe that being a mother is not the only thing that gives a woman value and I know you ladies (and gents) reading this blog agree.
Further, I set out a challenge. A year from now, we should put on a fundraiser for March 8. We should sell carnations and rec velvet cupcakes for students, faculty, and staff to give out to the important ladies in their lives. And we should take the money from this fundraiser and give it to a cause that impowers women, such as a microlending program or Care. That way we can help to encourage a pro-fem spirit on campus and work to empower women across the world.
Also in the spirit of women's day, an update on one of my favorite pro-peace groups, Code Pink.
A delegation from Code Pink of 100 people was allowed to cross the Egyptian border into Gaza. This is a huge deal, as this border has been closed since 2007. They brought with them messages of hope, peace, and pink Women's Day baskets for 1000 Gaza women. They also used this opportunity as a chance to speak out and urge the Egyptian government to open up these borders, because without free movement of goods and people a peace will never last, and the people of Gaza won't be free.
Check out the pics of these fantastic ladies on their flickr:
Much love from Estonia,