International Women’s Day 2016

As we continue to mourn the death of the courageous Indigenous Leader Bertha Caceres just a few days ago, let’s remember that March 8 is not just another day on the calendar. It’s a day for action, for honouring and remembering, and for supporting the incredible women who fought and who continue to fight for real and meaningful change…change for the girls and women of this world, and inevitably for all of society. We encourage you to #PledgeForParity.

Berta CaceresSince it was first celebrated more than 100 years ago, International Women’s Day (IWD) has honoured the political, social, cultural and economic achievements of women around the world.

Borne from the labour movement at the turn of the 20th Century and organized by the Socialist Party of America, IWD was first celebrated in memory of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. In those early years, employees worked 65-75 hours per week, sometimes until dawn. Often they had to provide their own needles, thread, knives, irons, occasionally their own sewing machines. To protest these conditions and led by Clara Lemlich, some 20,000 workers walked off the job. The strike lasted from November 1909 to February 2010. A groundswell of public opinion favouring the striking workers forced management’s hand and a “protocol of peace” saw the workers return to work.

The Socialist International Meeting of 1910 in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. Throughout the decades that followed, the idea of IWD was celebrated though not formally attached to March 8 until 1975 during International Women’s Year. It has been so ever since.

This year’s theme is Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” A corollary campaign is also underway to encourage participation in the movement: #PledgeForParity, a reference to the fact that gender parity has slowed in many parts of the world. Organizers of this year’s events are asking its supporters to #PledgeforParity in order to up that pace. Here is a useful resource list to help guide you through the campaign.

While we have seen improvements in much of the developed world, there still exist ingrained discriminatory practices leading to desperate inequalities as relates to poverty, healthcare, violence against women, and so much more. International Women’s Day turns our attention to these facts.

  • It is estimated that one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. (UN, 2015)
  • More 700 million women alive today were married when they were under 18, with approximately 250 million married before the age of 15. (UNICEF, 2014)
  • Globally, women make up just 22% of parliamentarians. (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2014)
  • In a study of 173 countries 155 have at least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities. Of those, 100 have laws that restrict the types of jobs that women can do, and in 18 husbands can prevent their wives from accepting jobs. (World Bank, 2015)
  • Only 4% of signatories in 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011 were women: 2.4% of chief mediators, 3.7% of witnesses and 9% of negotiators were women. (UN Women, 2011)

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