Women's Issues:

Why a women's day but no men's day?

My tribute to the International Women's Day, March 8, 2001.

Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world's women?

Because women naturally tend to behave in female-gendered ways, they have been vulnerable to confinement to female status by social, political, religious and other institutions. They have accordingly been subordinated to assume only inferior, servile social roles. The historic subordination, silencing, and imposed inferiority of women (beginning as often unwanted girl child), has been invisible because it has been considered as a simply natural feature of society. There is a traditional believe that women's "natural place" is in the home and their natural function is rearing of children. Burmese men find it very difficult to accept women as their counterpart. Everywhere in the world women continue to be victims of violence and rape. Women of Burma are the ones who have to sacrifice under the military dictatorship. And yet they continue to find ways to survive and resist the military regime with inspiring grace and humor.

The history of women's struggle started 150 years ago. On 8 March 1857, women working in clothing and textile factories in New York City, in the United States, staged a protest. They have fought against inhumane working conditions and low wages. Following the declaration of the Socialist Party of America, the first ever National Women's day was celebrated in the United States on 28 February 1909. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through 1913.

The first nation-wide Burmese women's organization was the "Konmari" association, founded in 1919. The aim of this association was to promote the knowledge of Burmese customs, religion, and traditions amongst Burmese women.

Since those early years, Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women. For women, the symbolism of Women's Day has a wider meaning. It symbolized how far they have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. The United Nations General Assembly has recognized on the fact that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women. It is becoming increasingly recognized that an individual's health status is determined not only by chance, genetic inheritance and the geographical availability of nutritional resources, but also by socioeconomic factors. Women's vulnerability to sexual subordination, produces harmful health consequences in women extending beyond pain, indignity, unwanted pregnancy, and venereal infection.

At the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, representatives of 189 different countries agreed that inequalities between women and men have serious consequences for the well-being of all people. The final document issued by the conference (called the "Platform for Action") had this to say: "The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue".

Until the rights and full potential of women are achieved, lasting solutions to the world's most serious social, economic and political problems are unlikely to be found.


  1. United Nations report, 2000
  2. More women's voice, by the Thanakha Team, 2000

Dr. Khin Saw Win

This commentary is based on a posting Dr. Khin Saw Win made in the soc.culture.burma newsgroup and the FreeBurma Yahoo! Group on 2001-03-04. The posting has been edited for inclusion on the Burma Watch International Web site.

Date last changed: 2007 September 25

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