Still much work to be done on gender inequality
International Women's Day is a time to mark positive achievements but also a reminder that women are still suffering from lack of opportunity, abuse and violenceOn March 8, 1917, women staged a protest against bread shortages in St Petersberg, Russia. This and related events culminated in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II within days.
In subsequent years, women in different parts of the world fought hard for causes both economic and social. This International Women's Day (IWD), thousands of events are being held across the world to inspire women to fight for their place in a better society.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change in both women and society's thoughts about gender equality and women's emancipation. Some in the younger generation might feel that all the battles have been won for women, but feminist veterans since the 1970s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy.
With more women in company boardrooms, more female politicians, and more women becoming impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could be forgiven for thinking women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid as much as their male counterparts, are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and, globally, still have less access to education and healthcare. This is not to mention violence against women, which remains a serious problem in certain parts of the world.
Nevertheless, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts, presidents and prime ministers. Girls are welcome in universities. Women can work and have a family at the same time. And more women have real choices. So the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.
Thai women's social status has been improving along international trends. However, although the female population exceeds that of the male, the number of women in boardrooms and in politics is way below that of men. Of 38 million workers, 17 million are female, indicating that many are still serving their families without pay.
For this year, more cooperation from all parties is necessary if Thailand is to observe International Women's Day under the United Nations' 2013 theme "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women."
The first thing that needs to change is social perception.
The Women and Men Progressive Foundation says it received 201 complaints by phone last year. Eighty per cent were reports of husbands hitting wives. The rest involved sexual harassment.
Chadet Chaowilai, director of the foundation, says violence is more widespread in urban areas, possibly because of work-related stress. Moreover, newlywed couples now tend to have their own houses, far from parental guidance. People in urban communities tend to refrain from getting involved in the domestic problems of neighbours. A way out is for people to stop ignoring the issue and be ready to notify the police of violence. Victims themselves need to show courage and file complaints, Chadet says.
The Paveena Foundation is also doing good work to help women. But a national mechanism is necessary to extend help to all women in society, with such foundations as part of the mechanism. This mechanism must also involve police officers. Progress has been seen with more female officers, dispatched to calm and advise female victims of abuse and violence. Moreover, more national campaigns should be orchestrated to raise public recognition of women's roles in our society.
More needs to be done. Yesterday the Labour Ministry handed out awards to recognise outstanding female workers. But on calendars collected by www.internationalwomendays.com, a non-profit organisation, 400 events were shown for the UK - and only one in Thailand: the Miss International Woman Contest 2013 in Pattaya, hosted on the sidelines of the IWD celebration.
The year 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Mark your calendar, because women across the world might need to stage another "revolution" to mark the occasion.