Friday, March 9, 2012

In Honor of International Women's Day

International Women's Day receives scant attention in the United States, but here in Europe it is a big deal. A very big deal.  Albania, like the rest of Europe goes all out in it recognition of all women- mothers, sisters, and daughters alike.  The restaurants are packed with well dressed women celebrating with their "sisters".  This posting is a bit late but I'm borrowing the following from our Embassy newsletter to explain one version as to why this day is so special.

The origins of such an upbeat holiday surprisingly memorializes one of the saddest events in the women's equality movement.  International Women's Day actually commemorates a 1908 fire in a New York textile factory.  Female workers had decided to strike due to unfair wages and terrible working conditions.  After several days of strikes, the factory owner barricaded the exits and set fire to the factory, killing all 129 works trapped inside.  This terrible atrocity led to the formation of the first women's labor union in the United States, and paved the way towards gender equality in the workplace.

International Women's Day is celebrated annually on March 8th.  In different regions, the focus of the festivities ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation, and love towards women, to a celebration of women's economic, political, and social  achievements.  In many regions the day has become an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a combination of Mother's Day and Valentine's Day.  In other regions, however, the original political and human rights themed designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.

Festa e nenes dhe e gruas, as Women's Day is called in Albania, is celebrated with gifts of beautiful mimosa flower bundles.  The mimosa was chosen as the international symbol of the celebration in 1946, to mark the first Women's Day after the end of World War II.  It was chosen for its bright color, sweet fragrance, and full bloom during the often cold early-March weather.  It's viewed as a symbol of rebirth and renewal, underscoring its relevance after the war time. 

On this important day you can send mimosa flowers or bake a mimosa flower cake  for the special women in your life.  Or you can simply say "thank you" to the women who have touched you in a special way.  So on that note, I say thank you to the women who have helped make me who I am today.

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