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Bahá'ís recognize the importance of International Women's Day. William Hatcher had many observations about the importance of equality and the place of women.

Humankind can't fly until men and women are truly equal

by Ted Slavin

published in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, Ontario: 2011
There is a populace within the human family whose members are bringing about extraordinary achievements in the world.

This group, however, has been subjugated to unspeakable oppression and injustices. They have been seen as somehow "lesser than" by the laws of several countries. Their dignity and rights, even in a country such as Canada, witness violations in communities, their places of work, and in the homes where, sadly, violence has been no stranger to many of them.

Despite the inequities they have been forced to endure, it has always been well-known that, if this population were to cease to exist, humanity's existence would end with it. For this reason and many, many more, a special day is observed to recognize this population's victories and those yet to come.

I am, of course, referring to women and International Women's Day on March 8.

Women's Day has been observed since the early 1900s and is regarded as an official holiday in some countries, including China, Russia and Vietnam. Women have been elected as national leaders in governments, they've won the right of access to higher education and their freedom has been recognized by the United Nations.

The advancement of the status of women over the last 100 years has facilitated their progress into the highest of levels of human achievement. Still, these human rights have not yet proven to be universally recognized in the world.

The late Dr. William Hatcher was an enormous man in terms of heart, mind and body. I had the chance to meet Hatcher while visiting the Bahá'ís in Quebec City some years ago, though I also heard him give a lecture at McMaster University when I was a youth.

He was a brilliant philosopher and mathematician, but I dare say that his most passionate essays dealt with the importance of advancing the status of women.

I recall one argument where he was pointing out the absurdity of the small amount of value we, as a society, tend to give to the extraordinary role of motherhood. Hatcher pointed out that professional basketball players earn an average salary of about $5 million. Meanwhile, there are mothers in our communities who are raising their children (the next generation of humanity) in poverty, going hungry while making sure that their children are fed first.

This level of human self-sacrifice, he reasoned, is extraordinary. Does it make sense for an athlete to be paid millions a year for putting a ball through a hoop when the sacrifices a mother makes for her children are seen as "ordinary?"

"Don't you think there's something at least just a little bit wrong with our values? Just a little bit?" Hatcher asked.

The Bahá'í writings state that women and men are like the two wings of humanity.

Both must be strong and balanced for humanity to reach higher achievements: "The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment."

At 7:30 p.m. on March 6, the Bahá'í communities of Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines are hosting an evening at the Queenston library to celebrate International Women's Day. Our guest speaker, Nancy Ackerman, has had a long-standing interest in issues of social justice, particularly concerning the equality of women and men. She has a background in public relations, psycholinguistics and music, and has her own business, AmadeaEditing, named after the sister of Mozart. Her insights and anecdotes from her experiences in Russia, Switzerland, Israel and Canada are sure to inspire. All are warmly invited to join us in celebrating the advancement of women.
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