International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. For those of us in the UK, it is a passing occasion politely noted but not recognised. In Eastern Europe, it is a day of great importance and today Sasha and everyone else in Ukraine has a day’s celebratory holiday.

Other than her birthday this is probably the one day in the year Sasha hates that we are apart. More than any other this is the day she thinks I should be serving her breakfast in bed, give presents of roses and chocolates, and take her out for a romantic dinner. Probably even more than St Valentine’s Day, in Ukraine this is the day for romance and romantics.

There are more important reasons to recognise International Women’s Day.

It is celebrated on March 8 and commemorates the movement for women’s rights and started in 1909 in New York, and the 1910 International Woman’s Conference suggested March 8 to become an “International Woman’s Day.”

Over the last year we have seen significant progress in women’s rights and 2017, more than any year may one day be judged as the year when we arrived at the ‘end of the beginning’.

In the UK there was a real focus on gender pay equality. The BBC has been hauled over the coals by Parliament for its policies and every company must now publicly report its gender pay gap.

Globally, starting with a few brave women outing Weinstein, prominent individuals and industry after industry has been under the spotlight. The #MeToo movement is international and will not be reversed.

The times have changed.

To me, it seems strange that these developments have taken so long to become common currency.  I have said before that when I was recruiting for consulting roles not only were we totally gender neutral in our selection processes, and as far as I know, we had no gender pay gaps. I am not bragging nor claiming any moral high ground. It is just what we did. If June, Maria, or Ann, among many others, are reading this and want to contradict me, please do. I would want to apologise.

June was such a good friend that she was one of my ‘ushers’ at my wedding in the mid-1980s. She managed to find a very feminine version of morning dress although she did tone down her hair colour. As I remember it was quite neutral compared to the green or purple she often sported at work.

In war, historically, men have paid the ultimate sacrifice but all over Europe, allied or German, women maintained a cohesive society while the men were at war. I have written about this before.

It was the strength of the Slavic women that sustained the Second World War push against fascism. I really do believe that it was the women of the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia that saved the West.

I remember a passage I wrote in my first book:

As he drove he remembered the stories he had heard of wartime resistance against the Germans that was fought around these very places. Twenty-two million allied soldiers had died in the war and twenty million of those were Soviets.

He also knew that more than twenty-five percent of Ukrainian and Byelorussians, civilians or soldiers, had been killed in the war. They had been hit hardest of all the Soviet states. The Germans had destroyed over two-thirds of the cities with less than a hundred unaffected. Nearly all the industry had been destroyed, with deaths and casualties of maybe nearly three million.

George tried to imagine how that would have been felt in Britain. Only four hundred thousand British soldiers or civilians had died in the war, but more than six times that number of Ukrainians and Byelorussians had died.

It was this resolve in the Slavic people he admired and respected. These people knew suffering, he thought, and now he had to respect one more Ukrainian. There she was, the babushka, dressed in black and as ever with a black headscarf, sitting and blocking his way in the corridor.

It doesn’t matter why you celebrate International Women’s Day, it is a day when men should recognise the importance of women in your life, something men do too infrequently.

My mother, Annie, Lucinda, Maddie, and Sasha. These are the women in my life and each plays an important and crucial role. I am sure that without them my life would be diminished.

Writers are encouraged to imagine their audience and in particular, imagine just one reader. This is our audience. We write for that person. We write to impress them. We write for them because they love us and will be honest, wanting us to succeed. They are in every sense our muse. Sasha is my muse and today, more than others, I am missing her.

Not all of us are writers but all men have important women in their lives and today is the day when you should reflect how important they are to you. Today is the day when you should reflect on their importance and tell them. And, if they have that special role today is the day to give them flowers and your love.

Women are our purpose and inspiration. They give us our mental strength. They are the centre of a family while feckless men waste their lives. And I haven’t even mentioned the beauty they bring to the world. When men stay logical women bring passion. When men are fickle women give direction.

In my letter today to Sasha I will tell her of my love but here I will just say to all women: I love and I respect you all.