Czech Women's Lobby tries to give International Women's Day new meaning

Foto: Europäische Kommission
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March 8th is International Women's Day but there's little to show for it in the Czech Republic. Most Czechs' memories of International Women's Day are restricted to folk songs, drink, red carnations and communist rhetoric. As a result, it has been discarded as a remnant of the past and few people today even notice its existence. The Czech Women's Lobby is now trying to change that and get Czechs to re-embrace the original idea behind International Women's Day. Blanka Knotkova from the Gender Studies Department of Charles University remembers the old days and talks about the challenges ahead.

"When I was young the communist regime was in power and I must say that the regime misused International Women's Day like it misused pretty much everything it touched. It was all a matter of propaganda and rhetoric and it didn't reflect the real needs of citizens whether they were men or women. I changed my opinion on International Women's Day thanks to a personal experience in India. I was there when this day was celebrated. It was at a university in Calcutta and the celebration was very spontaneous, very different from what I remembered from my childhood. There were many people - for example a feminist poet, some social workers, the students organized some happenings, there was a theatre performance and it was such an atmosphere of joy that I realized that International Women's Day could also have a different face from the one I remembered."

How would you like to see International Women's Day marked in the Czech Republic today?

"Well, I think that the best way would be for each of us to think about ways of building solidarity. I don't say the word as an empty slogan I am talking about women's solidarity, about real ties between real women."

Photo: European Commission
In what way are Czech women discriminated against today?

"Well, there are many gender stereotypes which still survive in present-day society. In general women get paid about seventy percent of a man's salary even when they are doing the same job, women have a harder time getting promoted and old women are seen as a group which is unnecessary for society. The liberal society lays far too much emphasis on youth, beauty and commerciality and so young women are used and misused as erotic symbols and if they go along with this they in fact participate in the discrimination against older women. It is necessary to realize this because we will all become old one day."