International Women's Day
drawing attention to equal rights
International Women's Day is celebrated worldwide on March 8th. Many things have been achieved, but many challenges remain that need to be worked on further to enable women to live in dignity, equality, with work, and non-violence.
Claudia Brehm, 8. March, 2021
History of the International Women’s Day
The roots of World Women’s Day or International Women’s Day lie in the workers’ movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In many countries, initially in Europe, women and female workers pleaded for a day on which they could campaign nationally, and later worldwide, in particular for equal rights, higher wages, and better working conditions for women, as well as for women’s right to vote and against discrimination.
International Women’s Day began to gain momentum when in 1975, the International Year of Women, the United Nations (UN) designated March 8th as the “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace” and held a ceremony to mark the occasion. Shortly thereafter, the first UN World Conference on Women was held in Mexico City.
In subsequent years, on International Women’s Day the focus continued to be on one women’s rights issue at a time: sexual harassment in the workplace, employment opportunities for women, better education for girls, and protection of girls from unequal treatment and exploitation, female genital mutilation, and child marriage. Attention was drawn to the high number of women infected with AIDS (two-thirds of all women under the age of 24 in sub-Saharan Africa), and calls were made for violence against women and girls to be made a punishable offense throughout the world. Equal pay for equal work and minimum wages were demanded, and attention was drawn to the continuing oppression of women and girls and the particular dangers and suffering in war zones. In the last three years, the themes have been on gender equality and empowering women and girls in media, information, communications technology, and in politics.
International Women’s Day 2021
The UN’s motto for 2021 is “Women in Leadership: Towards an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” March 8th aims to draw attention to the fact that the abundance and burden of tasks for women have increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic. Women are the ones who make up the largest percentage (76%) of the workforce in social and caregiving occupations. Women perform caregiving and support work in the home environment, childcare, home schooling, and housework. A UN study found that women do about three times the unpaid care work compared to men.
A new format for Miss Germany
I wonder if this is also a success of World Women’s Day. The beauty contest, which for many decades was based only on external beauty and consisted of a showcase in a male-dominated jury, has changed its format after much criticism from feminists. “Miss Germany” now promotes authentic and inspiring women who want to make a difference in society. Intensive encouragement among the women taking part in the competition will be the new guideline instead of discouragement and rivalry.
Women equal in value but different in their ways
Early on, Father Kentenich drew attention to the fact that women are equal in value, but different in their ways, and thus laid the foundation for a partnership between women and men in the Movement. Already in 1930 he formulated that “there was once a time when the public thought that history was only made by men. That was wrong. Women, too, have made history, and today more than ever they should powerfully influence the destinies of the world. Only we must expect and work towards it that she does not lose her essence, that the woman seeks and finds her mission.”
Under the main title “Joseph Kentenich’s vision of Women”, the article “The Social Change of the Image of Women – Ready for New Paths” which is worth reading, mentions that “what is decisive and remarkable is that he (Fr. Kentenich) had a lot of confidence in women. He encouraged them to act and to bring their abilities to bear. Women held offices in the new community with much spiritual, social and economic responsibility. Vocational training for women was an early goal for Kentenich. He encouraged young women to study and even to earn doctorates.”
100 Years – 100 Women
The video “100 Years – 100 Women”, produced in collaboration with Schoenstatt’s international women’s branches on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Movement, shows in an impressive way how women of different nations and ages have had formative experiences of their lives and their faith, how they cope with the challenges women face today, and what visions they have of changing the world a little more for the better through their own lives.
Equality and partnership
Marie-Luise Langwald, a member of the Secular Institute Our Lady of Schoenstatt, has worked with equality and partnership as constant themes in the pastoral care of women in which she has been active. She explains that “there are still women in the Church and in society who are not in the place where they belong. Equality, parity has not been achieved. Women hold high offices, but unfortunately, there are only a few in these positions. Especially in the economy, women are missing. The cause often lies in the career setback due to parental leave and the resulting lack of further qualification. Equality is still not a reality here. There is still a lot of ‘room for improvement,’ even in the Church.” A special “sister” for Marie-Luise is Mary, the Blessed Mother – especially as the woman of the Magnificat. She helps her to accompany women to their own greatness. Through the themes of man – woman, male – female, her image of God has broadened to a motherly God.
As a woman in the crossfire of great expectations
Éva Karikó, a Hungarian, member of the Family League, mother of four grown-up children, journalist, and life coach, is convinced that the greatest challenge for women today is that they live in a crossfire of great expectations: they are measured by professional success and they naturally have to be attractive, committed as mothers and at the same time be up to date wordly-wise, as well as committed to voluntary work. In social media, there are only women with a happy face, but in reality, they feel terribly alone and overwhelmed. The supportive environment is missing. So, together with others, Éva has made it her mission to launch projects to strengthen and enrich relationships. They support marriages, organize lunches for mothers with children, provide financial support for the needy, and organize talks. From her own experience, Éva knows the truth of Father Kentenich’s words when he says that “our wounds can become the breaking point of grace where God gives us a mission,” so she is also heartily grateful to God for the wounds of her life.
The service of small gestures
Maura Regina Santana de Jesus, from Brazil, is part of the Mothers’ Federation. She studied literature and postgraduate studies in legislative management, is the director of the Secretariat of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, and puts everything on the humble, faithful and constant service of small gestures. She is convinced that “good deeds – a kind word, kindness, a smile – touch people, both those who receive and those who give. They inspire the environment; they make it more human and strengthen the willingness to share. We all belong to one human family, and love for our neighbour must not discriminate in terms of race, creed, or economic power. We are created by the same heavenly Father who has instructed us to love one another.”
It is worthwhile to look again and again at the wide-ranging, different life stories of these 100 women. They contain many ideas and impulses for one’s own life and show how being a woman can be implemented responsibly and authentically in our time.
To all women, we wish you a happy and successful International Women’s Day. In the Original Shrine near THE great woman, on March 8th a candle will burn for all the women of this world.