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March 8, 2014 passed, as well as the previous ones, however demands remain the same and the fight continues.

Whenever you mention the celebration of March 8, International Women's Day, you can still hear opposing views and opinions on this holiday. Still, March 8 usually is linked with the period of socialism and the socialist countries. Still, it is linked with red carnation. Still, we don’t understand the importance of it. And it is important, because it is a day that represents the fight for economic, political and social equality of women and men.

Regardless of the different opinions about the celebration of March 8, it is important to remember what we have done, and what we haven't and what we could do. Because there is always one question bothering me: why haven't we done more? Although it’s generally celebrated by giving away flowers and candy, this holiday is not about gifts, but about equal and guaranteed rights and freedoms, of equal women and men. And it is there to remind us and warns us of the threat to women’s rights. Because it was not easy, those rights were not given to us by nature, but invaded for years. Now, it is even harder to preserve them and fight for their full implementation and compliance.

The first public demonstration of women employed in the garment and textile industry occurred on the March 8, 1857 in New York. The garment workers protested against poor working conditions and low wages. Also, back in 1908 more than 15,000 women took to the streets in a protest rally demanding better wages, shorter working day and a right to vote.

In 1910, at the World Conference of Women Socialists in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin’s proposal to celebrate International Women's Day was adopted, with the aim of fighting for peace, equal rights for women and men at work, income and education, the fight against human and child trafficking.

At about the same time in the United Kingdom suffragettes were fighting for women's rights. They took to the streets to fight for the right to vote, and already in the focus were the topics that are still current: women in leadership positions, as well as the compromise of family and work obligations.

International Women's Day, March 8, (the first time a specific date), was adopted in 1917. In 1975 the United Nations, declared the International Year of Women, and from then on officially began to mark International Women's Day. In the meantime, institutions such as maternity leave, the restriction of women's work in the third (night) shift, the right to vote, and some other institutions were introduced.

And then the question is what the difference is between in 1857 and 2014?

Look around and see, in 2014 essential requirements remain the same, which is to demand equal rights, equal payment, better working conditions. It's good that we still have the right to vote.

In Serbia, the situation is the same, because women are still struggling for their basic rights.

When it comes to education, at colleges and universities more women enrol, about 55 %, and of all graduates 69% are women . However, women continue to face inequalities in relation to the position of men.

It is important that women, equal with men, participate in decisions making relating to the various political and social issues.

In political life, progress has been made by amendments to the Law on Election of Deputies, where it was determined that at least 30 % of MPs in the National Assembly should be women. In The Law on the Government this element doesn’t exist, but it would be important that women occupy at least 30 % of ministerial and other executive positions. Prescribed quotas are under mild numeric “superiority” of women in Serbian society, and thus are only a step towards true equality.

Even though women make the majority of the population they are still the most discriminated population and still struggle to have the same treatment at their workplaces and to earn as much as their mail colleagues, and to advance in a career in line with the results they achieve.

On the other hand, in times of economic crisis, women are the one who are first to be fired, and many are still faced with the problems of existence, the inability to find a job, poor position on the labor market, and no means of livelihood.

Every second woman in Serbia is a victim of some form of violence - physical, psychological, economic or sexual. However, there are system requirements for the implementation of the law; lousy penalty policy does not lead to the desired results. Economic independence is the best protection against all forms of violence. Therefore, the economic empowerment of women to decreased violence in the family and in society.

The legal framework for female rights and gender equal society exists, but the executive and the public tolerate discrimination, and violence against women.

We all have to work and take care of our rights and that is the only way we can create a better society that is fully equal and inclusive.

International Women’s Day is a reminder. Every year it reminds us of what we have done and what still has to be done, what we have achieved and what we still need to achieve, of the changes that we have already initiated and inspired, and about the changes that we were able to initiate and fight for them.

And more importantly, this is not just a women’ struggle, but the common struggle of men and women, in order for future generations to be more beautiful, better, safe and equal.

So let's step out and do something more for future generations of women growing up in Serbia, something that will show them that their hard work and success will be recognized and appreciated. Let's instead of one day in the year, dedicate the entire month of March to them as a reminder of the achievements and successes of women in our history. Do not let them remain on the side-lines and be forgotten. Celebrate them, be proud of them, because we do have women to be proud of. 


Svetlana Stefanovic


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