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
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
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
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