SAFFIYAH EDOO

When it comes to commemoration, March is a busy month on the local front. With International Women’s Day and Independence Day close to each other, opportunities are well taken by one and all to share opinions on same. In parallel, it is also a known fact that past those special days, except for the truly invested, everyone goes back to their business and the feminist and patriotic fibres are locked up, to be used the following year, during the same period.

The one commemoration day is beneficial on numerous levels: it allows for awareness, an opportunity to go back to the historical roots of the celebration as well as an occasion to educate younger generations about same. It is a conversation generator, be it in homes, offices, schools, on social media, and in the media. On the flip side, it is also an opportunity for recuperation by various groups: politicians, corporate companies and increasingly for commercial purposes.
Corporate companies have competed to showcase who is the better women employer and who is the best patriot, through their social media platforms. It seems that as years go by, the competition intensifies with the respective marketing teams coming up with the most original social media concept for these celebrations. With discounts in spas, roses being offered to women in the workplace, and women being pampered on International Women’s Day and the number of merchandises being sold for Independence Day, the essence of the celebrations might gradually be lost, and become similar to Mothers’ Day and Valentine’s Day.

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, politicians have delivered the perfunctory discourse “de circonstance” which ranged from the inclusion of women in politics (like we’ve never heard that before) to the blatant asking of votes for the coming elections, to the proposal of 9 months maternity leave, only to be ridiculously retracted a couple of days later. For Independence Day, they encouraged “unity in diversity” while shamelessly engaging into sectarian politics every other day.

For the reasons above, an important question begs itself: what is done from one commemoration day to the other? Is being patriot or a supporter of women limited to one day? What actions are carried out throughout the year to sustain such actions? How far do corporate companies go to make the workplace a better support system for pregnant or lactating women, or parents in general, all year round? How inclusive are corporate companies with regard to the employment of the disabled, the elimination of racial and gender prejudice and discrimination? What is being done on the political front without reducing women to a quota that needs to be respected?

The real challenge, in fact, lies with the emerging generation. They are being exposed to all these discourses and will only make what they are taught and perceive of them. Which is why, it is all the more important to start conversations on the importance of and the roots of these commemorative days and turn these conversations into everyday actions, undertaken by young and old, collectively. Once these actions become part of everyday life, it is only a matter of time before patriotism and gender equality and respect become the norm and not limited to special commemorative days to be recuperated by self-serving agendas.