Column - Women, show you can

INTERNATIONAL Women's Day was celebrated with renewed pomp and splendour throughout the world and in Malaysia too, somewhat the event saw bigger prominence this year.

The goodwill of the day spread on to the whole week with many activities held to remember and pay homage to the fairer sex.

In its simplest, International Women's Day is annually held on March 8 to celebrate women's achievements throughout history and across nations. It is also known as the United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.

On this day, we celebrate the exploits and success of women across the world. More importantly, this day symbolises women's rights, or at least that's what we believe. Decades ago women did not have the privilege to vote, to speak or to act in free will. However, today it is different and with each passing year, International Women's Day reminds us of the need for equality.

On a personal level, we receive greetings from men and women alike to remind us that we are indeed thought of in a special way, not forgotten and that we do make a difference.

My older son who is a man of few words posted a poignant message for me on FB and it was a lovely feeling. While we continue to advocate that we need to be remembered every day of the year, that one day, on Women's Day, it gives us a euphoric feeling of happiness, captured vividly.

On a broader perspective, do women need to wait to be told that we are just as important? Every woman is fighting her own battle, especially single mothers who are left to fend for themselves and the children. In many instances, the men get away without any damage when a marriage falls apart.

On another sphere, we know that many female writers in the past adopted male nom de plumes, or otherwise gender-ambiguous pseudonyms to publish without prejudice in male-dominated circles and for their work to be read without any pre-conceived notions.

Today considered among the greatest novelists, literary sisters Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë – like many of their female contemporaries first published their works under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell respectively. Given the reactions to their writings, the sisters did not want to be typecast and they were afraid of societal retaliation to their insights.

While Louisa May Alcott's best known work, Little Women, was published under her own name, the American writer frequently used the ambiguous nom de plume A.M. Barnard to write sensational gothic thrillers with subject matter deemed "unladylike" for a late 19th century female writer.

Mary Ann Evans, born in Warwickshire in 1819 the daughter of an estate manager, was a clever child with a voracious appetite for reading. She had her first major foray into writing when she was hired as assistant editor at the radical journal Westminster Review. She adopted her better known male pseudonym George Eliot when George Henry Lewes, the English philosopher and critic with whom she was romantically involved encouraged her to take up writing fiction. Evans believed that a male alias would discourage female stereotyping.

The gender imbalance at the heart of the British and American literary establishment has been laid bare by a study confirming that leading literary magazines focus their review coverage on books by men, and commission more men than women to write about them.

Statistics compiled by an American organisation for women in the literary arts found gender imbalances in every one of the publications cited, including the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the New York Review of Books.

I would like to highlight that while we celebrate Women's Day and events are front-paged, a bit of news stashed inconspicuously in the inside pages caught my attention.

"Refugees being sold as child brides", whispers the headline with the irony too palpable. Girls as young as eight, believed to be Rohingyas, are being sold as child brides to the highest bidder for prices ranging from RM7,000, reported a local daily.

And this is allegedly happening in Malaysia. The newsmakers and the publishers didn't think the news was worthy of a bigger space and this is a conceited notion of irony and farce rolled into one.

Trafficking is a global concern and while there are scores of organisations fighting to counter this menace, International Women's Day should be more focused towards "cleaning up".

To have in place some action plan that will work to eradicate such crime against women and girls minus the fanfare would have been more meaningful.

I have heard this adage that "women are their own worst enemy", if this has been true in the past, let us change that. Let us women spread our wings to the nooks and corners where unthinkable atrocities are being subjected on women and girls.

We have to our benefit the gift of gab and the power of words, let us stand up and be counted to make a difference, not in any false sense of achievement.

The writer believes that the Malaysian education system will reach greater heights with a strong antidote to revolutionise just about everything. Comments: