A day to celebrate should be…celebrated – by Tariq Siraj

It’s both International Women’s Day and World Book Day today – both hugely significant and worthy causes to celebrate. The quote ‘when you educate a woman, you set her free’ ties both up very nicely.

Just like the rather more commercial Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Valentine’s Day, many make the point that we should celebrate these causes every day of the year so let’s ignore this ‘manufactured’ day being forced upon us. Additionally, there is the yet more cynical response of “why do they get a day, why not me?” or “Why isn’t there a ‘World Men’s Day’? – isn’t it some kind of reverse inequality to do it this way?”

Well….no. I think there might even already be a ‘World Men’s Day’ or something similar -though I’m not going to waste my time looking it up. The plain fact is that the global fight for women’s rights exists entirely because pretty much every day of the year is already World Men’s Day.

Rather than undermining the cause for the rest of the year, having a designated day where we celebrate, reflect, write about, think about or talk about a worthy issue simply raises that issue up. The Welsh don’t forget how proud they are of their country on all days outside of St David’s Day, nor do Americans forget their civil rights struggle outside of Martin Luther King Day – but they equally don’t think it crazy to have a day of celebration to honour the story.

What Does it Mean In The Real World…?

For many, World Book Day means finding a costume for your kid to wear to school and not much else. If you already read a lot, it won’t make a difference to your day-to-day existence – but then you’re probably not the target.

Readers will read regardless, and kids will dress up in costumes regardless…but if a particular day asks that that child to dress up as a character from a book they love and prompts them to read it, think about it and then read maybe read another – well that can only be a positive thing. If World Book Day only did that it would be worthwhile.

Of course its effect is far greater than that; both adults and children pick up a book when they may not have otherwise, it gives an excuse to nurseries, schools and colleges to emphasise the importance of literature, and it creates a forum for discussion, articles and debate around the role of literature and the use of language. This stuff happens every day all over the world…but a designated day just raises the consciousness a wee bit. To paraphrase This is Spinal Tap (any excuse); it turns the dial up to 11.

Thinking about real life and business, there a great Michelle Obama quote; “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens” – and that idea transplants perfectly onto the corporate world. How can any business – large or small – flourish, innovate and grow if it doesn’t encourage the potential of half of its available workforce? Half of its talent!

The promotion of books and reading, and the fight for women’s equality and rights are ongoing ones – but the focus and momentum can dim without an agreed day to write, think and talk about it. For all these reasons, let’s celebrate the forced celebrations that are World Book Day and International Women’s Day.


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