By Dr. Khine Khine Win
Every March 8, millions of people around the world celebrate the International Women’s Day (IWD). It has been observed since in the early 1990s. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. Thousands of events occur celebrating International Women’s Day – large global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, corporate events, concerts and performances, key speaker events, online digital gatherings and more. Events are held by many types of groups including women’s networks, corporations, charities, educational institutions, government bodies, political parties and the media.
International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Equality of rights for women is a basic principle of the United Nations and the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations reaffirmed “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women”. And article 1 proclaims that one of the purposes of the United Nations is to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction.
To date, the United Nations has organized four world conferences on women. These took place in Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, Nairobi in 1895 and Beijing in 1995. In 1979, in recognition the importance of women rights, UN Generally Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) by UN member States and is often described as an International Bills of Women Rights. Myanmar ratified the CEDAW in July 1997 and since then Myanmar became the State Party of CEDAW. By accepting the Convention, States commit themselves to undertake a series of measures to end discrimination against women in all forms. In fact, Countries that have ratified or acceded to the Convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice. They are also committed to submit national reports, at least every four years, on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty obligations. As of May 2015, 189 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty CEDAW.
The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, adopted an agenda for women’s empowerment and considered the key global policy document on gender equality. It sets strategic objectives and actions for the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality in 12 critical areas of concern: Women and poverty, Education and training of women, Women and health, Violence against women, Women and armed conflict, Women and the economy, Women in power and decision-making, Institutional mechanism for the advancement of women, Human rights of women, Women and the media, Women and the environment and The girl-child. To date the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action play crucial role in realizing gender equality and human rights of women.
Globally, In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. In doing so, UN Member States took an historic step in accelerating the Organization’s goals on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The creation of UN Women came about as part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact. Gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications.
Regionally, for ASEAN countries, ASEAN Commission on Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Child (ACWC) was established in 2010. ACWC’s primary purpose is to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of women and children in ASEAN and tasked with upholding rights contained in the Convention on the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which all ten ASEAN Member States have ratified.
Regarding the Women, Peace and Security and related resolutions, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 was adopted unanimously on 31 October 2000 before ten years establishment of UN Women. It was the first formal and legal document from the United Nations Security Council that required parties in a conflict to prevent violations of women rights, to support women’s participation in peace negotiations and in post-conflict reconstruction, and to protect women and girls from sexual and gender-based violence in armed conflict. It was also the first United Nations resolution to specifically mention women.
Many of you know that conflict affects entire communities adversely, but women and girls suffer disproportionate negative impacts economically and socially. And also women and children make up a large majority of the world’s refugees. Women have little representation in formal peace talks, and are often excluded from decision-making that affects their safety when displaced by conflict. In fact, women lack of participation in decision-making processes increases their vulnerability to sexual and other forms of violence.
Nowadays women comprise more than half of the world’s population and are primary caretakers for most of the children and elderly. Actually the women rights movements had a long and good history, women are still fighting for their rights and far more progress is needed to foster real gender equality and empowerment. They must enjoy the right to participate fully in the social and political lives of their countries if we want freedom and democracy to thrive and endure. They should exercise their rights and gain the knowledge, skills, and information they need, they can become powerful agents of change.
There is no doubt that women will never gain full dignity until their human rights are respected and protected.
Here, we need to understand that there is no formula for how women should lead their lives. This why we must respect the choices that each woman makes for herself and her families. Being a woman, I totally agree the following quote by Hillary Rodham Clinton. “If women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish”.
So if we want flourishing communities, we must invest in women, we must create a world in which every woman is treated with respect and dignity and cared for equally. Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth, I suppose.