- 08 March 2012
Today is International Women's Day a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday!
So, how far have we come? Information below is from the International Women's Day website:
International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women's oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman's Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
n 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the 'Women's Office' for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day - a Women's Day - to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women's clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin's suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women's Day was the result.
Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women's Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic 'Triangle Fire' in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women's Day events. 1911 also saw women's 'Bread and Roses' campaign.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women's Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Wommen's Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women's solidarity.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace" in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women's strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.
1918 - 1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women's Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women's rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as 'International Women's Year' by the United Nations. Women's organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women's advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women's equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
2000 and beyond
IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation feel that 'all the battles have been won for women' while many feminists from the 1970's know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.
Where are we now? Here is an infograph on sexual violence from Action Aid an anti-poverty and injustice group based in Australia:
Article from Huffington Post:
This isn't about "feminizing" men or about demonizing them as women-haters. It's about expanding the definition of human to include what is female and about working together to dismantle systematized biases in culture.
"In every arena -- in politics, the military, the workplace, professions and education -- the single greatest obstacle to women's equality is the behaviors and attitudes of men. I believe that changes among men represent the next phase of the movement for women's equality -- that changes among men are vital if women are to achieve full equality. Men must come to see that gender equality is in their interest -- as men."
Despite very recent debates about the role of men as feminists and as part of feminist movements, the fact remains that girls and women cannot achieve equality without the participation of boys and men. Especially since, regardless of local, regional or national context, men remain in control -- as political, cultural and religious leaders. The thing is, however, that patriarchal social structures are inhuman and, even if they appear to benefit boys and men, there is untold harm done to them as well.
Make sure you read Soraya's 10 Ways in which gender equity is good for boys and men (and see the links at the bottom!) plus check out the book The Guy's Guide to Feminism.
What can we do?
Obviously, there is still a lot of work to do within the Women's Liberation and Feminist movements. There is also a lot of work to get on with in the Vegan/Animal Rights, Environmental, Food Justice and Human Rights movements. Why? Is it that people don't simply care? Maybe. One of my oft-quoted sayings is from Leonardo da Vinci: There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they're shown and those who do not see. This has helped me focus my attention on the first two sections of people, not waste my time and energies on the other but still live in hope that they may one day change.
I also think that more work is needed to combine all movements as in my opinion they are all related. Each of these movements is aiming for necessary changes in an out-dated system that has repression and opression governing for far too long. Until everyone sees the actual connection between humans and animals, all animals and the planet, women and men, instead of focusing on the differences, we cannot move forward in any of these movements.
It's not about blaming others, it's about leading by example the best way that you can now so as to educate everyone around you on how one person can enact postive change within a non-so-positive world.
Some websites I suggest you check out:
A Breeze Harper - writings on race, class, gender, and geographical region
Action for Our Planet - encouraging others to become advocates for the planet and it's inhabitants
Amnesty International - campaigning to end the grave abuses of human rights
Carol J Adams - feminist-vegan writer
Feminists for Animal Rights - ecofeminist organisation
Food Empowerment Project - encouraging healthy food choices that reflect a more compassionate society by spotlighting the abuse of animals on farms, the depletion of natural resources, unfair working conditions for produce workers, and the unavailability of healthy foods in low-income areas.
Food First - eliminate the injustices that cause hunger
Food not Bombs - organization dedicated to nonviolent social change by sharing free vegetarian food with hungry people and protesting war and poverty
Human Rights Watch - defending and protecting human rights
LOVE - Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation
Marti Kheel - writer and activist in ecofeminism, animal advocacy and environmental ethics
One Green Planet - links environmental issues, animal rights, vegan food, nutrition and conscientious living.
The Scavenger - online portal of features, commentary and news that you’re unlikely to find in mainstream media
The Sistah Vegan Project - how plant-based consumptive lifestyle is affected by factors of race, racisms, sexism, heterosexism, classism, and other social injustices within the lives of black females.
Vegans of Color - a voice to vegans of color
Vegina blog - a vegan and feminist perspective
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