Mondy, March 8, 2010, is International Women's Day. The FSU nations I have regular travel to and communication with (Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia) all take this day very seriously and it comes with a national day off from work. Early last week, one of our office logistics guys went around and took a contribution from all the men of 30,000 Soums (about 15 dollars), which is a hefty sum relatively speaking! On Friday, a big party was thrown for the women including pink roses handed out to each and a ballot drawing that led them to a gift bag filled with chocolates and other goodies. A speech was made by the office managers thanking them for their work and their "beautiful smiling faces".
This is much the same process I observed last year. It's good, they enjoy it, and I think it's interesting that it doesn't seem to have a place in American business. Frankly, I don't ever recall even hearing of International Women's Day before coming to work here! Some Western folks may sometimes seem to look down their noses at the record for women's rights/civil rights in some of these locations, so it seems sort of ironic. Not incompatible but ironic. I've heard that the origin of the elevated status of this holiday was the Soviet Union... only back in the day when the Soviet Union existed and was administering these types of public systems did International Women's Day become celebrated here. Now that the Soviet Union is gone, Women's Day has remained.
The Soviet Union also celebrated, throughout its lands and countries, a holiday called Defenders' Day (or Army Day), which was celebrated similarly with a day off and lots of speeches and so forth. Well, in Uzbekistan, this day has changed to 'Men's Day'.
But 'Men's Day' doesn't come with a day off from work! :-)
Sleepless in Tashkent