International Women's Day – first promulgated in the early 20th century by socialist groups worried about industrialisation, workplace conditions and voting rights – is celebrated by countless individuals, organisations and governments on 8 March every year. This year, special Women's Day events held in several Jamats highlighted the social and economic progress that women have made, while remaining vigilant of the difficult challenges that still lay ahead.
The Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, together with the local Parish Council, hosted a special recognition event for women who stood out for their contributions to Portuguese society. Eight women received awards for their work in the areas of sustainable projects for the elderly, social work, education, health, arts and culture, communication, volunteerism and business dynamism. Among them were Dr Maria Elisa Ferreira, a distinguished Portuguese state television journalist, and Dr Parveez Sacoor, a past Vice-President of the Ismaili Council for Portugal and the former Chairman of the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for Portugal.
“It is an example for the whole of society – even for the world – that a community like yours have in their constitution, institutions and members specifically for women's issues and well-being,” said Rodrigo Gonçalves, President of the Parish Council of São Domingos de Benfica Lisbon. “It shows that you care. It shows it's important.”
The event was also attended by Parish Council member for Education and Culture, Emilia de Noronha and the Member for Women's Activities on the Ismaili Council for Portugal, Nilofar Aly.
In Kabul, the Ismaili Council for Afghanistan marked Women's Day at Umomi Jamatkhana. Some 900 participants – mostly women – gathered for the event, which featured a programme of poetry, speeches and performances. Fauzia Ahmad, the Ismaili Council Member for Women's Development and Improvement, welcomed the audience to the event.
The speeches and readings that followed touched on the history of International Women's Day and the importance of women in social development, and the legal rights that Islam accords to women. Parwin Rahimi, the Ismaili Council Member for Legal Matters, reminded the audience that in Afghanistan women can become teachers, doctors, judges and traders, and that they have the right to vote.
The programme also featured a play about the consequences of early and forced marriages. It pointed out that if Afghan families encouraged their children to pursue education rather than marrying them off at an early age, their futures would be brighter and Afghan society as a whole would also benefit.
Far away from Kabul, an Afghan woman at the International Women's Day event held at the Ismaili Centre, London reflected on the day's significance. “There is a need for continuity after International Women's Day. It is a reminder that women are also important,” said 24-year-old Rahila Muhibi.
“We need to realise we have a long way to go and stay strong … you forget you have achieved so much, it reminds you and makes you realise you are capable of doing more.”