One hundred and one Women's Days later, we see that many battles have been won. In 1911, women could only vote in two countries. However, are women equal today? Victories in a few battles does not mean the war is won, there remains far more to do.
However hard you fight and however much you conquer, the history of human development teaches us that reactionary forces will rise up to try to destroy what has been achieved and turn the clock back, holding down the masses and attempting to impose the rule of a restricted group which controls wealth. One look at the financial and economic "crisis" and the ensuing outrages against accumulated labour and social rights proves this.
As far as women are concerned, they have to continue the fight, using instruments such as the United Nations' UN Women which forms networks and launches projects worldwide towards gender equality, and combating gender-based violence, striving for the empowerment of women. Women should not expect that rights are given to them just because they are women.
True, they have won many battles since members of the suffragette movements gave up their lives so that woman could have the vote and today 67 countries have laws which mandate equal pay for women, while 126 have guaranteed maternity leave. Yet 70% of the world's poor are women, 66% of the illiterate are women.
What have 101 Women's Days done for those living in countries where they can be decapitated for being raped, where they can be buried alive or stoned? What have 101 Women's Days done for those girls who, as minors, have their clitoris removed? (Female Genital Mutilation- 100 to 140 million women have been mutilated and 3 million girls every year are subjected to it).
And are women truly free, even in industrialised countries? Do they in fact have equal job opportunities? Are they really free to have a child and sustain their position at work? After 101 Women's Days the pay gap in OECD countries is 17.6%. In the Middle East, less than 30% of women are employed - the situation in Libya is far worse than it was a year ago after the murderous activities sponsored by the FUKUS Axis (France, UK, US and Israel). Globally, women own 1% of the world's property as compared with 99% for men, 10% of income compared with 90%.
Rwanda is the only country in the world where women constitute over 50% of the members of Parliament. What have the 101 Women's Days done for the women who have experienced sexual violence? (Between 15% and 71%). What have the 101 Women's Days done for the 10 to 27% who have suffered sexual abuse, depending on the region? What have the 101 Women's Days done for the 5,000 victims of honour killings per year?
80% of the victims of human trafficking are women; 60 million girls are forced to get married every year as minors; in the European Union, which adores calling itself "civilised" and imposes itself on other regions with a top-down approach, between 40 and 50 per cent of women have been the victims of some form of sexual harassment at work; 25 per cent of women worldwide are subjected to physical or sexual abuse.
What have the 101 Women's Days done for the one third of women beaten, coerced into sex or abused during their lifetimes in some regions of the globe? For the one sixth of American women who have been the victims of rape or partial rape or attempted rape?
In the USA a woman is beaten by a man every nine seconds. Worldwide, in some areas only 20 per cent of victims of domestic abuse report the incidents.
History of International Women's Day
International Women's Day started in the United States of America, launched by a declaration of the Socialist Party of America on February 28th, 1909 using as a basis the need to guarantee women's rights in an increasingly industrialized society and was taken up by the international community at the first International Women's Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1910. The horrific and inhumane conditions at the New York Triangle Shirtwaist factory which caused the deaths of 140 garment workers (mostly women) in 1911 provided an added impetus at a time when women were pressing for the right to vote and demonstrations in Russia prior to the 1917 Revolution were the first signs of women's emancipation in that country, culminating in the declaration by Lenin of a Women's Day on March 8th; in 1965 it was declared a public holiday by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.
Why March 8th?
Women had been demonstrating for their rights since pre-Classical times (e.g. the sexual strike called by Lysistrata in Ancient Greece, the March on Versailles by Parisian woman calling for "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" in the 1790s). Copenhagen had chosen 19th March for the celebration of an International Women's Day but in 1913, Russian women chose the last Sunday in February (following the Declaration by the Socialist Party of America in 1909) as the date for their International Women's Day to call for peace on the eve of the First World War. As Springtime and local customs to give the first flowers to women combined, the end of Febuary/beginning of March began to be the time of year observed by the feminist movements, until in 1917, Russian women called a strike on the last Sunday of February to protest against the War (23d February) in the Julian Calendar; 8th March in the Gregorian.
UN Women runs a number of excellent projects aimed at prevention and awareness both for women and for men. At the website on UN Women you can inform yourself and/or your community of the programs that are being run. UN Women encourages people to get involved.
After reading this article, I urge the reader to get involved and to continue this fight. There is so much more to do. What "man" stands back and sees women abused and discriminated against without taking action?
The Americans came to realise that they would have to either leave the region or weaken their presence there. It is Russia that is filling the vacuum now