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International Women’s Day

Published Mar 19, 2011 10:58 AM

Protest of 10,000 women, March 8, Manila, Philippines.
Photo: gabusa.org

Struggle has been at the heart of International Women’s Day since 1 million women demanding equal rights first marked it in Europe in 1911.

This year’s commemorations, held on March 8, carry out that tradition. From the Philippines to Bahrain, and Kenya to Mexico, women celebrated and marched.

Women worldwide have been electrified by the struggles of their sisters in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen in recent weeks demanding the ouster of U.S.-supported dictatorial regimes. In many Middle Eastern and North African countries, women have continued to struggle and rallied on March 8 demanding political and economic rights.

Their Palestinian sisters protested the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation and blockade of Gaza in cities and towns on the Occupied West Bank and in Gaza City. In Beit Ummar on the West Bank, they set up a roadblock. Activists decried the violation of women’s and human rights as their homes are demolished for Israeli settlements.

Pakistani women rallied against the U.S. imprisonment of political prisoner Aafia Siddiqui.

The capitalist economic crisis and IMF/World Bank-imposed austerity programs have created more joblessness for women, more migrant workers, lower wages and vital program cutbacks. Women are hit even harder in poor countries oppressed by imperialism. Moreover, corporations and governments deny many unionization rights.

Yet women workers are saying “No!” Whether through unions or community organizing, they’re leading the global fightback for decent jobs and social programs, and to end all discrimination and exploitation.

On March 8, women workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, rallied for benefits, while their sisters marched in Seoul, south Korea, and Bangkok, Thailand. Indian women rallied for basic goods’ subsidies and more.

More than 10,000 women marched in Manila, the Philippines, to demand that President Benigno Aquino enact price controls on basic goods, a national wage hike, and the repatriation of and protections for migrant women. Organized by Gabriela, a Filipino women’s alliance, they also demanded full reproductive health services, education and legalized divorce.

The Indonesian trade union confederation, KSBSI, called for a global fightback against economic assaults on women, to demand their rights and for unions to support all women’s struggles.

In Nairobi, Kenya, women rallied for access to jobs and education. Women in Kenya’s Central Organization of Trade Unions rejoiced on IWD. Their union recognizes women’s leadership and works to empower its membership. It has helped to win legal recognition of women’s and union rights and benefits for working mothers.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions issued a statement on women workers’ unemployment and underpayment worldwide. The statement recognized their roles in international working-class struggles. Gertrude Mtsweni, COSATU gender coordinator, urged women workers to develop a global solidarity campaign for social justice and women and children’s economic emancipation.

Women demonstrated throughout Latin America, including in Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and El Salvador, for an end to anti-woman violence and to express outrage at “femicides.” In Tegucigalpa, outside Honduras’ Public Ministry, women condemned the murders of 63 women this year; they called for an end to impunity in these killings.

Gilda Rivera, of Honduras’ Center for Women’s Rights, stressed that since the coup [against President Manuel Zelaya], there has been “a very dramatic decline in the recognition of women’s rights ... with high rates of femicide, of violent deaths of women of all ages, including girls.” The authorities are indifferent about stopping this, she stated.

In pre-IWD actions, women protested in six Brazilian states against capitalist globalization and environmental damage. Thousands of women farmers, members of Via Campesina and other women’s and rural populations’ organizations denounced toxic weed killer and pesticide use on crops, a practice harmful to farmworkers but pushed by large landowners and transnationals.

In Caracas, Venezuelans marched to hail women’s gains. Minister of Women’s Affairs Nancy Pérez said that women “have much to celebrate,” and that “a genuine recognition of women’s liberation was achieved [by] the birth of the Bolivarian Revolution 12 years ago.” Women have gained legal rights, and governmental ministry and agency positions during President Hugo Chávez’s term.

Joining the march were hundreds of delegates from 46 countries who came to Venezuela to attend the Global Grassroots Women’s Conference at Bolivarian University for IWD’s centennial. They honored IWD founder, German socialist Clara Zetkin. Their consensus, as voiced by Gloria Jilambe of Women Together in South Africa, was, “Our families face so many ills because of capitalism and imperialism.”

In socialist Cuba, the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) has helped to insure legally mandated gains for women since the revolution. The Cuban Communist Party’s Central Committee recognized the FMC’s outstanding achievements. Surina Acosta, of the Council of State and general secretary of the organization, received the award. Moreover, around the country Cubans honored the late Vilma Espín, FMC founder and Cuban hero.

Held in U.S. prisons, the Cuban Five political prisoners congratulated women internationally and thanked them for organizing support for their struggle.