In today’s rabidly consumerist world, marketing and public relations people are constantly looking for events that can be milked for all they are worth, and Women’s Day is a heaven-sent opportunity for them.
Thus it is that we are bombarded by offers for beauty treatments and discounts on frilly dresses, special packages at the gym and all manner of blandishments, often pink-themed.
Catchy as all this may be, it is not what Women’s Day was meant to be. Or should be. The day began to be marked as Working Women’s Day following a protest on this day in the 19th century by women mill workers in New York, who were seeking better wages and working conditions.
The anniversary of this day subsequently was commemorated as Working Women’s Day, and is now also often known as Women’s Rights Day. It is therefore apt that we eschew the pink tinge that has begun to form around March 8. Especially here in Mumbai.
For all its gloss, Mumbai has always been a working person’s city, and is unlikely to shake off that tag. Our buildings, public transport, chai shops and khaanavals are primarily geared to serve workers no matter what kind of collar they wear.
Technology may have made working life easier in some respects, but going to the workplace and returning home is still the basic rhythm of city life, the beat on which other melodies play.
It hardly needs to be said that of the city’s teeming workforce, women make up a formidable part. But it does need to be said, and underlined, given that Mumbai’s reputation as the safest city for women is taking a beating. There is no point holding celebratory kitty parties when the self-assurance with which women go to work is shaken.
The United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day 2014 is “Equality for women is progress for all”. The only true equality is freedom. To be, to travel, to work, to walk in safety. This March 8, let us all from authorities to employers to family members take a pledge to give Mumbai back to its working women.