Bread and roses
March 8 is International Women's Day... a day set aside to remember women and their fight for gender equality in all walks of life.
March 8, as you may know, is celebrated as International Women's Day. The United Nations officially signed a charter in 1945 to proclaim Gender Equality as a fundamental right. However, years before this signing, women in San Francisco rose up in arms for their rights. As early as 1912 there was a strike by textile workers for equality.
Over the years the struggle continued and women coined the phrase "Bread and Roses" after James Oppenheim's poem of the same name was published. The chorus in the poem is, "Give us Bread but give us Roses". The reference to "Bread" is freedom from hunger and "Roses" is satisfaction of wants. In many parts of the world, women are given a loaf of bread and a rose as a symbolic gesture on this day.
What about India? Mythology and history have given pride of place to women. Sita and Draupadi are the women who come to mind immediately. A modern day Hindi poet, Mythili Sharan Gupta has even absolved Kaikeyi of guilt by penning a poem titled "Kaikeyi Ka Anutap"or "Kaikeyi's Repentance". In this poem, the refrain in Rama's words, "I'm blessed a hundredfold to have a `mother', who has given me a brother like Bharath." We are also familiar with the records of Maithreyi and Gargi, the Vedic scholars who mastered the Vedas and Upanishads facing much opposition.
Modern day success stories among women in Science, Literature, and Politics are too numerous to list. So, does this mean the U.N. charter of 1945 is being fulfilled in India? The answer is `No'! In most of India, the girl child is still illiterate and certainly has to face numerous hardships for her "bread" and can't even dream of "roses".
Thus, till rural women, like their urban counterparts, have their basic needs met, there will be no gender equality, the fundamental right proclaimed by the U.N. We should all get together to try and make International Women's Day truly meaningful, by ensuring that every woman in this country has her "Bread" and "Roses"!
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