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I hope my daughter will not celebrate ‘Women’s Day’

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

International Women’s Day is marked once every year. However, it has also sadly evolved into yet another commercialized holiday in which brands jump on the social-media bandwagon to announce limited-edition products and movements that attempt to trick women into feeling special for one day a year.

As a woman who works hard for the other 364 days of the year, it is somewhat depressing to feel that my existence and input into the companies that I work for, the industries that I help and the society in which I live is marked once a year and is almost forgotten.

Whether it’s “special flights” lead by an all-female crew by EasyJet, or “limited edition” skin products aimed to help women “embrace” international women’s day, companies are missing the significance of this day. Once International Women’s day is over, these same companies that “celebrated” the day will spend the rest of the year chastising women and telling them how they should look.

I am sick and tired of this perpetual cycle of capitalizing on meaningful humanitarian days. International Women’s Day should be used as an opportunity to amplify discussions over gender parity in daily life, the workplace, and in society; it is not a day for brands to hijack.

I support the accomplishments of women but I am also a firm believer that these accomplishments should be celebrated as and when they happen, not just once a year. More importantly, accomplishments should not make news just because they are women but because they are true trail-blazing change-makers.

I hope that my daughter will not have to celebrate women’s day. I hope that she will not need to see women flying big planes being treated as an “achievement” that is worth highlighting – I hope she sees it as an every-day occurrence. In fact, I hope she doesn’t even realize that it is happening because the true measure of being accustomed to something is not even realizing it is there.

International Women’s Day should be used as an opportunity to amplify discussions over gender parity in daily life, the workplace, and in society; it is not a day for brands to hijack

Yara al-Wazir

Tokenism

International Women’s day is important, I have celebrated it in the past and in fact, it is marked in my calendar months in advance. It should be a day marking the struggle of women in their daily lives, not to give them medals for their so-called achievements of things they do every day.

The struggles that women go through every day are endless. Forty percent of managers avoid hiring younger women to avoid having to give maternity leave – that is a struggle worth highlighting. Once women do make it to the workforce, they are interrupted an average of once every 2.51 minutes – that is a struggle worth highlighting. It will take an estimated 170 years before women and men earn the same amount for the same work that they do, according to the World Economic Forum – that is a struggle worth highlighting.

When it comes to education, the list of issues is endless, with female enrolment rates and literacy still trailing behind that of men’s in third-world countries. Education, healthcare, and workplace mannerisms are the issues that should be discussed on International Women’s Day.

Signing pledges

Some companies are capitalizing on this monumental day by making large donations or signing pledges. To Calvin Klein, who sexualize young girls year round in their ad-campaigns, I ask one question: why did you wait until International Women’s Day to sign the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principals Charter?

If companies truly believe in the power of women, they would get on with empowering them without feeling the need to scream about it. To the companies that took out full-page advertisements to talk about gender equality and gender parity, I salute you, but I also urge these companies to lead by example and question what gender equality means in their own workforce.

I urge every business leader to exemplify what gender equality means to them 364 days a year, and not just one day a year because the media is watching. I am confident that business leaders in the Middle East want to see the region progress, and so they must support 50 percent of the population.

I hope that in the future, my daughter does not have to celebrate International Women’s Day. If she does, I hope that the world is able to use this day to look back at solid, sustainable long-term achievements, not limited edition products and flights.
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Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.