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International Women’s Day observed worldwide

Published Mar 17, 2010 5:50 PM

The centennial anniversary of International Women’s Day was commemorated throughout the world by marches, rallies and meetings. Though themes differed, the activities showed women expressing their rights, protesting injustices and demonstrating solidarity with their sisters in struggle.

Women’s voices could be heard from Uruguay to Haiti, from Bangladesh to the Philippines. Some of the highlights of the many global activities on IWD — March 8 — are summarized here.

Women of Haiti marched in Port-au-Prince with banners held high, asserting “Women will rebuild Haiti,” referring to the devastating earthquake on Jan. 12, which took hundreds of thousands of lives and homes.

Many women’s organizations in Puerto Rico and Latin America dedicated their IWD programs to the women of Haiti, especially paying homage to women community leaders who had perished in the earthquake.

Activities in Europe varied, but the global economic crisis was not forgotten. In Athens, Greece, women protested against government austerity programs, which are affecting workers and retirees.

In Spain and Portugal women asserted demands for reproductive rights, similar to many protests in Latin America, to counter the stronghold of the Catholic Church on their governments’ policies.

In Istanbul, Turkey, women proudly marched. In Calcutta, India, women called for political rights and representation.

The women of Gaza marched with their children, showing their strength and determination in the face of Israeli aggression and occupation, one year after its horrific bombing campaign.

Their Palestinian sisters held a sit-in and rally in Beirut, Lebanon, demanding the release of their sisters who are tortured and imprisoned in Israeli jails. Their signs hailed struggling women everywhere.

To celebrate IWD, the National Garment Workers Federation sponsored a rally of women garment workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They demanded their right to a safe workplace. Women, who form 80 percent of the clothing factory workforce, face sexual abuse, long hours, low pay and unsafe working conditions.

A contingent of hearing- and speech-impaired women joined the IWD march in Kathmandu, Nepal. They carried signs calling for “equal rights and opportunities.”

Women workers in Seoul, South Korea, marched to protest the anti-worker policies of President Lee Myung-bak.

Philippine women marched throughout their country to protest growing poverty and political repression at the hands of the U.S.-backed government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Marchers called for justice for women victims of human rights violations. Many women demanded “Free the Morong 43.” These 43 health care workers, of which 26 are women, are being illegally imprisoned at Camp Capinpin, an army headquarters in Tanay, Rizal.

In Baguio City, demonstrators honored the heroic struggles of Indigenous and working women in Cordilleras, while in Calamba City, they marked women’s long struggle for equality and justice.

On IWD, the government of South Africa announced it was setting up more health care programs for women and children.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions celebrated the gains of women workers and called on unions to promote women’s role in collective bargaining and gender equality in the workplace.

In Latin America, the progressive governments of Bolivia and Venezuela have implemented pro-women policies. On IWD, the Bolivian government announced the creation of a commission to promote women’s equality.

Nilda Copa, the minister of justice, told of Bolivia’s new constitution which contains 34 articles promoting women’s rights, a codification of women’s equality and prohibition of all forms of discrimination.

More than 200,000 women from all over Venezuela marched together in Caracas to celebrate the gains in women’s equality that have been made through the Bolivarian Revolution. Women now lead four of the five branches of government, while social programs have been implemented to help poor women. A Bicentennial Women’s Front was launched on IWD to help build socialism there.

Socialist Cuba celebrated IWD’s centennial with national celebrations and tributes to Vilma Espin, founder of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), and revolutionary hero Celia Sanchez.

The Cubans’ celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the FMC began on IWD and will continue through August. This 4-million member organization has been the leading force in helping women gain political, social and economic equality.