International Women’s Day
Published Mar 19, 2011 10:58 AM
Protest of 10,000 women, March 8, Manila, Philippines.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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