Women's Day - A speech dedicated to all women from Wanita keADILan

Theme: WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS THROUGHOUT HISTORY

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to assume  among the people of the earth a position different from that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitled upon them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to such a  course.”

So said Elizabeth Cady Stanton , an American Women's Rights Pioneer at the Seneca Falls Convention - July 19, 1848.

The rapidly changing roles of women are causing changes in the society at a much faster rate than we’ve previously known and today's women leaders are very much challenged to redefine what they mean by the women's movement, of which Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a pioneer.

We have seen some of the results of the women's liberation movement which grew in the West because of what they saw as rights not given to them or taken away from them.

Elizabeth wrote further:
”The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman,  having in direct object the establishment of an absolute  tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

She continued this speech with a list of greviences that the women had against the American govenrment at that time. Things have changed a lot since then but not without the blood sweat and tears of women like Elizabeth Cady who dared to speak out , dared to be imprisoned and suffer at the hands of the unjust.

The women's movement spread to the African American and in 1851 we have Sojourner Truth Women's Rights & African-American Rights Pioneer who said

 " Well, children, where there is so much racket there must  be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking
about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.  But what's all this here talking about? "

Delivered To The Women's Convention In Akron, Ohio - December, 1851

By now the women of the world are in various stages of realization of their rights and their rightful place in society and there is no turning back.

But my friends, what is it that we want for the women and what is it that we hope to achieve from our efforts?

Among the most famous woman in the not too long ago past is Indra Gandhi, who fought for women in India in her own way. She wrote:

"An ancient Sanskrit saying says, woman is the home and the home is the basis of society. It is as we build our homes that we can build our country. If the home is inadequate--either inadequate in material goods and   necessities or inadequate in the sort of friendly, loving atmosphere that every child needs to grow and develop--then that country cannot have harm ony and no  country which does not have harmony can grow in an direction at all.
That is why women's education is almost more important  than the education of boys and men. We and by "we" I  do not mean only we in India but all the world, have  neglected women education.”
from a speech at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations Of The Indraprastha College For Women, Delhi, India - November 23, 1974
 

We are now travelling in unchartered waters as far as women's rightful place is concerned.
The rapidly changing roles of women as well as the shifting values have produced an instablity that has undermined the family unit. This has in turn caused a shift in the skills and abilities of women and men which needed to be understood & handled properly. It is quite common that we find the ratio of girls entering tertiary education has exceeded that of boys in many countries including our own . The latest statistics from our ministry of education has shown that 55% of the students entering tertiary education are girls and not only that, the girls who get into tertiary education have better entry grades than their male counterparts.

While this may be viewed as a triumph of the women's movement in educating women, it is actually a situation if not handled properly can easily result in more destabilization of the society.

As women who are interested to bring about an improvement in general to the quality of live of our people we have to look into the imbalances and how to deal with them. Men to as members of the society should try to emphatise and understand the changing roles of women as well as the impact of this change. Then, together we should resolve a mechanism on how we should complement each other and move forwad as a progressive society.

The Quran says in Surah Taubah:67

“The believers, men and women are protectors of one another. They enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil….”

Susan Faludi, an American writer wrote an article in 1999 at the event of a Common Wealth Cub meeting entitled:
Scenes From The Betrayal Of The American Man

Among other things she wrote:

"Some fathom that there is yet another level, a betrayal so all-encompassing that it can hardly be blamed on the fathers. A profound cultural change has occurred in our lifetime, one that's been building for at least 100 years,  but that has now gone into warp speed. We are passing from a utilitarian society where people's public service was needed and valued, to a consumer-driven  celebrity-saturated culture where people's credit cards, their display value, their sex appeal, and their marketable  fame sometimes seem to be all that's recognized.
The force of this new culture dictates profoundly what it  means to be a man, whether you are a Hollywood  celebrity or a clerk at the 7-11. The new display culture  thrusts men into an ornamental world of images wherewhat you do for a society takes a back seat to how many  people are watching you do it. In the new world, a man must be a "winner" all by himself, and winning is determined by his ratings - whether he has the biggest  biceps, the fastest car, the biggest killing on the stock market, or the winningest Viagra performance. "
 

And so, today being Women's Day, I would like for us to understand that what it is all about is about the human story, about getting better, moving to better things, dealing with the problems that the changes in the society brings with it, setting things right.

As Soujourner Truth says it, quoting the Bibilical Story which blames Eve the first woman for all the problems of humankind:

"If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they are asking to do it, the men better let them. "

May this Women’s Day remind us again of the struggle and of the courage of all women around the world as well as in our country Malaysia. To all women activist, especially to Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, may our struggle be blessed and bring success.

Happy Women’s Day.

 

HJH. FUZIAH SALLEH

KETUA WANITA keADILan

March 8, 2001