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Category: Women 15 Mar 09

You have to be a woman to understand a tea party. For a few hours, all the stuff pressing against your skull dissipates (it’s usually heavy stuff) in the pouring of tea. So I said yes, when members of the inter-club, made up of 12 women’s groups, asked me to sere as master of ceremonies on International Women’s Day. When I got there, there was no electricity. Five hundred women waiting to be served tea and no electricity. Just across from me sat feature speaker, Karen de Montbrun. She takes her place in a man’s world, and is accepted absolutely as an equal.

Women don’t have to grow moustaches and burn bras to compete anymore. Our teenaged girls don’t even question their right to have it all: guns and roses; steel and chocolate. On that airy afternoon, I saw in the crowd women I knew had been battered, women who were fighting cancer, who had lost a husband, lost a child, were dealing with disability, alcoholism in their homes, were breadwinners, businesswomen, professionals, leaders and team players. In between, to make up for the lack of music, I read to them, letters I had received from women everywhere, on what this day meant to them.

Jennifer Alcazar

“My fondest memory of my grandmother is of her at age 87, walking the beach in Mayaro early one morning with my parents and me. “She spotted some fisherman and ran to help them, pulling the rope until the fishing nets were on the beach. At 91, she has begun to fade and is losing her battle to cancer.

“Even as a child she survived a father who was abusive and beat her most days. I want to dedicate this day to the women who, through adversity, have managed to shine, and instead of being destroyed by what life has thrown at them, they have blossomed and shown us how to live, how to smile, how to laugh and be strong.”

Nailah Ali

“My mother and grandmothers are my pillars of strength. I may never be able to fully understand the challenges they had to face, or the sacrifices and choices they had to make and are still making for me to enjoy the freedoms and opportunities that I have today.

“They may never understand my liberal views. Despite this, I do feel that behind pursed lips and judging glances they are living vicariously through me and loving every minute of it. “Despite the generational, ethnic, cultural and racial gaps and differing opinions and political affiliations…as women we simply must support one another.”

Janine Mendes

“The saying that ‘women are the backbone of society’ is so true—without the spine’s support, the whole body collapses. “Women matter; we have influence. We don’t have to save the world tomorrow or make some grand gesture to make a difference. It’s the little things—the positive choices that women make every day in their families, communities and places of work—that can contribute to the rebuilding of a productive society.”

Kanisha Dolsingh

“International Women’s Day should not only celebrate the achievements to date, but recognise the long journey yet to be embarked upon. “We have also had the unfortunate and painful experience of other women who should be fighting in our corner, working hard to bring us down—time and time again. “I hope that we the women of today can take an honest look at ourselves and really ask the hard questions: what are we doing to take the next step? Are we fighting in the corner of those women in our lives?”

Mamata Lakshmanna

“I am celebrating the day with a women’s self-help group in Hyderabad. These slum women have formed groups of ten to 15 members. “They save one rupee per day, and with matching grants from Government, they have brought about a silent revolution in their lives, families and community.

“There are 600,000 such groups in Andhra Pradesh, and they cover 87 per cent of poor women. “They improve their skills, undergo training and take up income-generating activities, spread awareness about HIV/Aids. “I salute these poor and brave women who are now training women in Bihar and other parts of India.”

Mary King

“Fifty per cent of our school children don’t pass English and maths. The average salary is $3,000, and 25 per cent live below the poverty line on $655 a month—US$3 a day. “The whole top echelon of knowledge is gone. At the bottom, there are the distribution, trade and manufacturing.

There is no research, development and innovation. “Women have to drive a knowledge-based economy. We have not pushed ourselves. Women in Cepep should, instead, be given money to train and educate their children, so they wouldn’t end up with guns in their hands. “There should be a family allowance for women with children. Every political party has a woman’s arm. We will never be equal if women and youth are seen as ‘separate.’ We have to stand up and say it’s our turn.”

Sharon Miller

“For the first time in my life I am motherless. No mother or grandmother to root me. Right after my mother died I became aware of all the women of a certain generation who provide an invisible wall of support. “They rallied to show me how to bury a mother; how to move on with a life where I am suddenly the keeper of memories and traditions.”


Standing amidst these women after a young girl danced without music, I felt they agreed with me when I said “with every lunch kit we pack, every minute we spend looking after the ill, old and lonely, every time we read to a child or correct him or her, it’s us women who humanise the world, and pick up the pieces of senseless wars or the recession of greed.” As the last bouquet was handed out and dusk started to settle on us, electricity returned. Women trooped out, in a glow of their own.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur