The Baha’i teachings on the equality of men and women have impelled the worldwide push for women’s rights forward even before it began as a social movement. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, called for the equality of women and men as one of the foundational Baha’i principles; and did so in a dangerous Middle Eastern context in the 19th Century. The Ottoman Empire tortured, exiled and imprisoned him for life as a result. His son Abdu’l-Baha, the exemplar and inheritor of his father’s Cause, advocated globally for the rights of women long before it became safe or politically fashionable. Here, in excerpts from a speech Abdu’l-Baha gave to a women’s suffrage organization in New York City in May of 1912, Abdu’l-Baha calls for the equal rights of women in clear and emphatic terms:
…mankind and womankind as parts of composite humanity are coequal and that no difference in estimate is allowable, for all are human. The conditions in past centuries were due to woman’s lack of opportunity. She was denied the right and privilege of education and left in her undeveloped state. Naturally, she could not and did not advance. In reality, God has created all mankind, and in the estimation of God there is no distinction as to male and female…. The most momentous question of this day is international peace and arbitration, and universal peace is impossible without universal suffrage. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 133.
International Women’s Day recognizes the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women—and issues a call to action for accelerating the progress of gender parity around the world. IWD helps raise awareness and carry out the fundamental Baha’i principle of equal rights for women and men:
The teachings of Baha’u’llah proclaim equality between man and woman, for He has declared that all are the servants of God and endowed with capacity for the attainment of virtues and bestowals. All are the manifestations of the mercy of the Lord. In the creation of God no distinction obtains. All are His servants. In the estimation of God there is no gender. The one whose deeds are more worthy, whose sayings are better, whose accomplishments are more useful is nearest and dearest in the estimation of God, be that one male or female.When we look upon creation, we find the male and female principle apparent in all phenomena of existence. In the vegetable kingdom we find the male and female fig tree, the male and female palm, the mulberry tree and so on. All plant life is characterized by this difference in gender, but no distinction or preference is evidenced. Nay, rather, there is perfect equality. Likewise, in the animal kingdom gender obtains; we have male and female, but no distinction or preference. Perfect equality is manifest. The animal, bereft of the degree of human reason and comprehension, is unable to appreciate the questions of suffrage, nor does it assert its prerogative. Man, endowed with his higher reason, accomplished in attainments and comprehending the realities of things, will surely not be willing to allow a great part of humanity to remain defective or deprived. This would be the utmost injustice. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 374-375.
—no single governmental or international body, NGO or faith group or women’s network takes sole responsibility. Instead, many different organizations from all sectors of society support this global day, declaring their own annual theme or focusing on one specific aspect of women’s equality. In that sense, IWD may be not only the first global day of recognition for the achievements of women, but the most widespread recognition of the female majority of humanity.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” says world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem.
“The world of humanity has two wings—one is women and the other men,” wrote ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible.”
"The elimination of discrimination against women is a spiritual and moral imperative that must ultimately reshape existing legal, economic, and social arrangements. Promoting the entry of greater numbers of women into positions of prominence and authority is a necessary but not sufficient step in creating a just social order. Without fundamental changes in the attitudes and values of individuals and in the underlying ethos of social institutions, full equality between women and men cannot be achieved. A community based on partnership, a community in which aggression and the use of force are supplanted by cooperation and consultation, requires the transformation of the human heart." -- National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States
Bahá’ís of Botswana
Bahá’í communities are working together with their neighbours and friends to promote and contribute to the well-being and progress of society. In urban centres and rural villages, in homes and schools, citizens of all backgrounds, classes and ages are participating in a dynamic pattern of life, taking part in activities which are, at once, spiritual, social and educational.
FOR MORE INFORMATION