Saturday, March 8, 2014

In Celebration of International Women's Day (A Repost)

Even Google is getting in on the action

Today, in honor of International Women's Day, I'm re-posting a version of my tribute from past years. I'm just settling in here in Belgium and have yet to tie into the local international women's group. As such I'm unsure to what extent International Women's Day is recognized and celebrated here in Belgium. I haven't seen anything advertised and in venturing out this morning I didn't see any of the hoopla I'd seen in Albania. That doesn't mean it isn't celebrated here however. 

But here is my tribute from previous years.................

International Women's Day receives scant attention in the United States, but here in Europe it is a big deal. And in the Balkans it is a very big deal.  Albania, like the rest of Europe goes all out in it recognition of all women- mothers, sisters, and daughters alike.  While getting my hair returned to its "natural" color this morning, there was a steady stream of women coming into the salon for washes and blow outs.  The restaurants were packed with well dressed women celebrating with their "sisters".  It seems as though everyone is out celebrating the wonders of women  but it makes you wonder how far the "holiday" has moved from its original intentions.  If today's celebratory events in Russia are any example, it makes me think that there are much more meaningful and long term ways that the contributions of women can be celebrated, or at least recognized. The history and commemorations may remain the same but this year I really find myself pondering why women's contributions are recognized on a single day when we toil the other 364 days of the year as well.  Shouldn't every day be a day to honor and respect all women, and all people for that matter?  But I digress...........

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, or festival of mothers and women 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.  This time of year the mimosas are in full bloom and the bright yellow flowers are hawked by the fistful by children standing along the sides of the road.

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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