International Women's Day

Women role models

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2006, 12:00am

Today is Women's Day, marking the 95th year that women have been honoured through this international event.

Women have come a long way socially, politically and economically over the past century.

A hundred years ago, women did not have the right to vote. Many had no choice but to stay home to cook, clean and care for their husband and children.

The Women's Suffrage Movement, which originated in the 1800s, paved the way for voting rights for women across the world. Changing social conditions for women at that time, combined with the idea for equality, led women to fight for equal voting rights.

But in countries such as Lebanon and Brunei, women are still treated as second-class citizens and do not have full voting rights.

International Women's Day (IWD) provides a platform to celebrate the changes in women's role and to highlight issues which currently affect women.

History is peppered with achievements by brave and bold women.

British author Jane Austen, who lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s, wrote novels that documented and satirised society while promoting the social responsibility of women.

She has long been considered a role model for women because of her determination to write despite social constraints at the time.

A contemporary role model is Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy activist from Burma who is under house arrest for fighting against the Burmese military regime. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and commands international respect.

Closer to home, we have role models like former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang, windsurfing queen Lee Lai-shan and former legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai. They are outspoken and have contributed to Hong Kong's development and success.

Last year, Britain declared IWD a public holiday, and the day is celebrated in many other countries.

The Hong Kong Women's Forum is a networking organisation for women. The organisation celebrated yesterday with a charity event and an auction of bachelors.

'We often focus on the terrible things that are happening in the world, so [this year] we wanted to have a happy event to celebrate the joy and fun in women,' says director Liz Murrihy.

Ms Murrihy says students interested in doing volunteer work for a women's charity can approach organisations at any time of the year, not just on Women's Day.

'SoulTalk is a good example of a charity for women right here in Hong Kong,' she said.

The organisation offers counselling and support to women in crisis, and is one of the many charities that aim to improve the lives of women.

For more information on the Hong Kong Women's Forum, go to