IWD Theme Confusion

Today is International Women’s Day.

International Women's Day logo on Adventures in Expat LandIt’s an officially recognized day (March 8th) trumpeting the economic, political and social achievements of women.

When I went to check to see what the actual theme is for 2012, little did I know what I was getting into.

Confusion abounds.

Here I was thinking that whoever the original group was that came up with the idea to celebrate a global day addressing the successes and challenges facing women would just announce the new annual theme and everybody would get on board.

Silly me. It seems that there are several big players on the world stage, and they each are clamoring for everyone’s attention. The United Nations asserts that the 2012 theme is ‘Empower Rural Women: End Hunger and Poverty’.

We’re just going to assume that they also care about starving poor women in cities and their outlying metropolitan areas, and move on.

The website for the group International Womens Day says that this is the year of ‘Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures’ and provides a list of events and ways to participate in the commemoration of IWD.

Both themes are taken up by governments, industries, educational institutions, charities, women’s groups and the like.

It does beg the question: why can’t everyone just get on the same page?

It turns out that national groups in various countries may then choose to tailor the theme to meet their own particular situation on the ground. Regional and local organizations and large companies in the business sector are free to do the same.

That’s why a multinational company like IBM’s theme is ‘Success in the Globally Integrated Enterprise’, while the European Parliament’s is ‘Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value’. Another part of the UN is focusing on ‘Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls’. No word on whether this includes urban females, but I tend to think so.

The IWD website even asks groups to share their themes for this year. Take a look at the list of different themes and sub-themes, and you’ll start to get a creeping sense of bewilderment.

The good news is that International Women’s Day exists at all, that it is officially recognized by so many, and is used to highlight the important issues facing women around the globe.

When you shed light on the condition of one gender, by implication you’re assessing it compared to the other, so it isn’t that men are being ignored. And when you discuss women’s issues, it invariably leads to the state of the world’s children, families, communities.

Besides, it’s not as if improvements to the lives of women don’t affect those around them (i.e., men and children). It’s the old ‘rising tide raises all boats’ argument, and it’s a pretty sound one at that.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to see IWD follow somewhat along the lines of the Chinese calendar. Name a year and you know whether it’s the Year of the Dragon or Year of the Rat, as well as when the next Year of the Ox or Goat will occur.

I’m not suggesting that we have a twelve-year cycle of the same overarching themes for IWD.

Although on second thought, would that be so bad? It’s not as if we’re going to solve all of the hunger problems or every single education concern and then be able to say ‘done and dusted’ and move on to tackle the next item on the ever-growing list.

I suppose having a rotating set of high-level themes is probably too much to ask at this point. As humans, we like to feel that we’re savvy enough to take a lay of the land before we decide. We like to peruse our surroundings, observe the wild successes and continuing failures, note new developments and trends.

We want to sift the tea leaves, see which way the wind blows, and then announce THIS is clearly the year of X. Or Y. Z if you’re so inclined.

If something as amorphous as the world’s ‘fashion industry’ can decide that this is the year of thigh-, knee- or ankle-length skirts, body-skimming or flowing freely, in sturdy materials to reflect the serious nature of the global economy or filmly fabrics to capture our sense of whimsy during tough economic times, well you get the point.

If fashionistas are able to assert with authority that ‘persimmon is the new black’, then you’d think that the powers that be in the international development/gender arena could do the same.

I just think it might be nice to have everyone work together. One year, one theme.

Subthemes allowed, but in the same manner as we do in writing: following the main theme and a colon. Oh, and appearing to flow directly from the main theme because they are clearly related.

Employment: Creating New Jobs, Improving the Old

or Employment: Tackling Unemployment and Underemployment

Or perhaps Poverty: Addressing Income Imbalance

See? Is that so difficult?

Apparently so.

In the spirit of international cooperation, let’s just set aside this theme confusion.

Rather than get caught up in the political hierarchy of competing themes, we can take a deep breath, be thankful that these issues are being discussed and worked upon at all, and commit to doing one thing – today, this week, this month, this year  – that will help improve the human condition.

In whatever manner, in whichever area you wish. You decide. The needs are great. Just pick one and do something to help out.

There. Was that so hard?

Note: If you’re on Twitter, consider following International Womens Day @womensday. You can also participate in and/or follow the tweet stream with #womensday



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