You might have seen International Women’s Day mentioned in the media or heard friends talking about it.
But what is this day for? When is it? Is there an equivalent International Men’s Day? And what events will take place this year?
For more than a century people around the world have been marking 8 March as a special day for women.
Read on to find out why.
How did it start?
International Women’s Day, also known as IWD for short, grew out of the labour movement to become a recognised annual event by the United Nations (UN).
The seeds of it were planted in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote. A year later, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Woman’s Day.
The idea to make the day international came from a woman called Clara Zetkin, communist activist and advocate for women’s rights. She suggested the idea in 1910 at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. There were 100 women there, from 17 countries, and they agreed on her suggestion unanimously.
It was first celebrated in 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The centenary was celebrated in 2011, so this year we’re technically celebrating the 111th International Women’s Day.
Things were made official in 1975 when the United Nations started celebrating the day. The first theme adopted by the UN (in 1996) was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future”.
International Women’s Day has become a date to celebrate how far women have come in society, in politics and in economics, while the political roots of the day mean strikes and protests are organised to raise awareness of continued inequality.
Why 8 March?
Clara’s idea for an International Women’s Day had no fixed date.
It wasn’t formalised until a war-time strike in 1917 when Russian women demanded “bread and peace” – and four days into the strike the Tsar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.
The date when the women’s strike commenced on the Julian calendar, which was then in use in Russia, was Sunday 23 February. This day in the Gregorian calendar was 8 March – and that’s when it’s celebrated today.
Why do people wear the colour purple?
Purple, green and white are the colours of IWD, according to the International Women’s Day website.
“Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept. The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK in 1908,” they say.
Is there an International Men’s Day?
There is indeed, on 19 November.
But it has only been marked since the 1990s and isn’t recognised by the UN. People celebrate it in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the UK.
The day celebrates “the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities”, according to the organisers, and aims to highlight positive role models, raise awareness of men’s well-being, and improve gender relations.
How is Women’s Day celebrated?
International Women’s Day is a national holiday in many countries, including Russia where flower sales double during the three or four days around 8 March.
In China, many women are given a half-day off work on 8 March, as advised by the State Council.
In Italy, International Women’s Day, or la Festa della Donna, is celebrated by the giving of mimosa blossoms. The origin of this tradition is unclear but it is believed to have started in Rome after World War Two.
In the US, the month of March is Women’s History Month. A presidential proclamation issued every year honours the achievements of American women.
What is the IWD 2023 theme?
The UN’s theme for 2023 is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. This theme aims to recognise and celebrate the contribution women and girls are making to technology and online education.
This year, IWD will also explore the impact of the digital gender gap on inequality for women and girls, as the UN estimates that women’s lack of access to the online world will cause a $1.5 trillion loss to gross domestic product of low and middle-income countries by 2025 if action isn’t taken.
But there are also other themes around. The International Women’s Day website – which says it’s designed to “provide a platform to help forge positive change for women” – has chosen the theme #EmbraceEquity with organisers and events seeking to “challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion”.
Why do we need it?
In the past year, women in many countries such as Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine and the US have been fighting for their rights amid war, violence and policy changes in their respective countries.
In Afghanistan, the resurgence of the Taliban has hindered advancements in human rights with women and girls now banned from higher education, working most jobs outside of the home, travelling long distances without a male chaperone and they are instructed to cover their faces in public.
In Iran, protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by morality police in Tehran on 13 September 2022 for allegedly violating Iran’s strict rules requiring women to cover their hair with a scarf.
Since then, demonstrations have continued across the country with many Iranians – both female and male – calling for better rights for women and a change from the current political leadership. “Woman, life, freedom” is the slogan of the protests. Authorities have portrayed them as “riots” and responded with force. More than 500 people have died.
Following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces on 24 February 2022, the UN report that gender gaps in food insecurity, malnutrition, poverty, and increased gender-based violence have worsened inside Ukraine and around the world due to war-induced price hikes and shortages.
On June 24 2022, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, a historic piece of legislation which protected the right to abortion for American women, causing widespread outcry and demonstrations in the US. A number of US women have sought support to get a termination from people in Mexico, where a historic ruling in 2021 effectively decriminalised abortion.
n the past few years though, there has been progress.
In November 2022, the European Parliament passed a law after a 10-year battle to ensure more women are represented on publicly traded companies’ boards by July 2026. “There are plenty of women qualified for top jobs and with our new European law, we will, make sure that they have a real chance to get them,” the EU said.
Meanwhile parental leave laws were updated in Armenia and Colombia, and Spain passed laws to support menstrual health leave and extended access to abortion.
The International Olympic Committee reported the most gender-balanced Winter Games with women making up 45% of athletes at Beijing 2022. Though gender parity wasn’t achieved, new guidelines promoted more balanced coverage of women’s sport.
The Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2023 is newly expanded, with 36 teams taking part. Ahead of the competition, the US Soccer Federation reached a historic agreement to pay its men’s and women’s teams equally, making it the first in the sport to promise both sexes matching money. Female players had filed a number of equal pay claims and lawsuits, arguing their case for more than five years.
Backlash builds against Sri Lanka’s $3 Billion clean energy push
Utility scale wind, solar and battery projects draw CEB’s ire as they march to take away their vested interests.
The government has ignited a green energy investment spree that’s expected to reach as high as $ 3 billion over the next 3 years. The road to bringing this money in the economy, though, is increasingly hitting speed bumps from the likes of the so called ‘mafia’ CEB officials.
Country’s ambitious vision aims to make the nation’s electric grid greener with 70% of the electricity demand to be met through renewable energy by 2030.
Companies have already announced plans for committing $25 billion investment up to 2030 in the renewable energy sector in the Country, according to the Board of Investment.
With potential Private investments over the next 3-4 years through FDI could include $3 billion in utility scale wind, solar and battery storage projects – Sun Power leading with $1.5 billion, followed by Adani Green with $900 million, by Orbital energy with $200 million, by WindForce PLC with $150 million and balance by a consortium of private developers. However, the opposition to projects has mounted for myriad reasons.
Increasingly, the few so called ‘mafia’ CEB officials, who have strangled the Country’s power sector by delaying the approval process, seems to be more concerned that the rapidly expanding utility scale size of wind, solar and battery projects will irreparably alter their powers and thus their vested interests in earning a share out of the pie.
Despite this backlash, many projects will eventually get built, say developers and analysts, but they could take longer and cost more than expected.
At the government level, there is ample support for speeding up the implementation of the projects, but its only CEB who is pushing back on their own self-motivated agenda, not know at large.
– Harendra Kuruppu
Personal agenda of CEB officials delaying renewable energy projects
The central government & their policies are responsible for most of the hardships we face today. But when it comes to implementing investments and projects in the renewable energy sector, surprisingly the central government has good policies and intent but have failed to implement them due to bureaucracy, corruption and personal agenda of few CEB officials.
The present problem is having too much capacity in the wrong types of power plants and too little in the right types. It’s an open secret that few of the CEB officials are not fond of utility scale renewable energy. They like non-renewable sources of energy but hate utility scale wind, solar and battery storage projects.
Despite renewable energy being clean and cheap, the utility scale RE projects have not been implemented in Sri Lanka on a large scale. Sri Lanka still has plenty of room for Solar and Wind. We only have around 12% of RE in the grid (excluding hydro). We are far from the critical limit that could possibly considerably impact the grid from the fluctuating nature of renewable sources.
CEB wants to convince people that the unreliable nature of RE is the reason why they oppose it. But the real reason is, they can’t maintain their infamous mafia power and pursue their personal agenda when there is an abundance of RE power in the system. The proposal of RE investors won’t get accepted even though the offered rate was lower.
While purchasing non-renewable energy power at a rate of over Rs.45 per unit, the CEB is blocking over 1,500 MW of new utility scale solar, wind and battery storage projects. Had these projects been approved by CEB and put to built in this year, they would be ready to supply electricity at the Rs.24 to 30 per kWh tariff within one and a half years’ time period, with lower than prevailing solar and wind energy tariffs and also far less than the cost of non-renewable electricity.
Few CEB Engineers suddenly come to realize that if the trend of implementing such utility scale re-projects continues in the country, this is going to be a threat to their business and their vested interests.
So, they have resorted to delaying tactics in the approval process of utility scale RE projects not favorable to them, effectively blocking large scale investments and investors who have plans to invest in the country.
On analysis, with the delay in these 1500 MW RE projects, the country will lose annually ~3200 GWh of clean and cheap energy resulting in the country’s economy spending additional Rs. 20 billion per year on account of the higher cost of non- renewable electricity.
It’s hard to fathom the unbelievable level of bureaucracy, corruption & personal agenda of CEB.
– Harendra Kuruppu
Why you may not get Kashmir’s famed apples easily
On a chilly and foggy winter day, hundreds of apple farmers in Pulwama district of Indian-administered Kashmir stored their harvest in a temporary tin shelter installed at the fruit market, anticipating the arrival of traders who would purchase their produce.
The farmers were anxious as the quality of apples this year had not been the best and would affect the price they’d get.
Kashmir is known in India for its variety of apples. But a series of challenges – from the onslaught of fungal scab, the impact of climate change, and a range of economic hurdles – has thrown the flourishing industry into a state of crisis.
Apples are classified into A, B and C categories based on their size, colour and quality. A is the premium category while B and C are those infected with scab (venturia inaequalis) - B being less infected than C.
“Around 40% of the apple production [this year] has been C-grade,” says Ghulam Nabi Mir, an orchardist from Pulwama.
The horticulture department of Jammu and Kashmir says apple, walnut and almond farming provide direct and indirect employment to about 2.3 million people in the region.
Exports from the Himalayan region’s orchards amount to over two million tonnes annually, generating approximately 120bn rupees ($1.44 bn, £1.14bn) in revenue – which is almost twice as much as the region’s tourism sector, Ejaz Ayoub, an independent Srinagar-based economist, told the BBC.
But unusual weather patterns are beginning to take a toll.
“Unseasonal rainfall in April-May led to scab affecting the crop,” says Abdula Gaffar Qazi, 50. ”Even when some farmers sprayed pesticides, the rain washed it away.”
Extreme weather patterns impact the size, quality and quantity of the crop, says Dr Tariq Rasool Rather, a senior scientist at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences.
Apple trade generates almost twice as much revenue as the region’s tourism sector, experts say
Depending on whether scab affects the crop during the summer or spring season, apple quality can decline to a B or C grade.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, 58, a farmer from the Chadoora area of Kashmir’s Budgam district, says he has never witnessed such unusual weather patterns in the region before.
“Hailstorm in May damaged my crop,” he says, adding that a prolonged dry spell in August and September caused water scarcity, leading to diminished colour in the apples.
Mr Bhat’s apple orchard is spread over five acres but more than half of the trees are infected with scab.
Data from Jammu and Kashmir’s meteorology department shows the frequency of severe weather occurrences in the ecologically sensitive Kashmir Valley has increased over the past seven years.
Over 550 people have been killed in extreme weather events in Jammu and Kashmir between 2010 and 2022, it says.
On 18 July 2021, Kashmir witnessed the hottest July in eight years with a record temperature of 35C (95F). Earlier that year in January, the valley had also recorded the coldest night in 30 years.
According to Faizan Arif Keng, an independent weather forecaster in Kashmir, the region witnessed dry weather with temperatures approximately 12C above normal from March to mid-April this year, resulting in early flowering of apple crops. But the weather then changed abruptly and temperatures remained below normal until June.
“This ‘false spring’ damaged the crop,” he says.
Extreme weather makes crop transportation also a major challenge for farmers.
Harvest starts in autumn season. But the valley remains cut off from the rest of the world in winters because of the landslides on the treacherous Srinagar-Jammu national highway, the only road that connects the region to the other states of the country.
It’s common to see hundreds of trucks carrying apples stranded for days if landslides block the highway.
Vijay Taira, vice-president of the Kashmir Apple Merchants Association in the Azadpur fruit market in Delhi, says there’s been an influx of Iranian apples in India’s fruit markets.
This, growers say, affects the Kashmiri apple’s market share and its price
“Only two weeks ago, a box of Kashmiri apples would sell at 1,000-1,300 rupees in India’s fruit markets,” says Ahmad Bashir, president of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers Cum Dealer Union (KVFG). ”Now, it is being sold at 800 rupees a box, which does not even cover the cost of production.”
The Indian government’s decision to waive off a 20% tariff on apples imported from the United States has also left farmers in distress over drop in prices, he says.
Extreme weather patterns impact the size, quality and quantity of the crop, a senior scientist says
In November, KVFG wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention in resolving the crisis.
The region’s horticulture department says these issues can only be resolved at the federal level.
“We have raised these concerns with the government,” says Manzoor Ahmad Mir, deputy director of the department. “Only they can take a call [on it].”
Kashmiri apple farmers also worry the government is not cracking down on dealers selling spurious or sub-standard pesticides.
“If the pesticides were of reliable quality, the scab in our orchards would be less,” Mr Bhat says.
Shafiqa Khalid, also a deputy director at the region’s horticulture department, says strong action has been taken against accused dealers and criminal cases have been filed against them.
Problems arise when farmers don’t heed advisories regarding pesticide spray schedule, she says.
When apple farmers don’t make good income, the “consumption which drives the domestic economy” is directly impacted, Mr Ayoub, the economist, explains.
“The money flows in the market and reaches many people associated with different kinds of trade,” he says. “So, if the money stops, people from all walks of life will be impacted.”
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