Women Demonstrate to Celebrate International Women’s Day

  • Women in France are staging a "March of the Big Winners" against the government's controversial pension reform.
  • Elsewhere, women are demonstrating for equality, pay equity, and an end to violence against women.
  • International Women's Day began in 1857, as a protest by garment workers in New York.

On this March 8, International Women’s Day, tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected in the streets of many cities around the world. Women’s rights activists want to make a point about intersectionality and the convergence of “feminist dynamics.” Women in France will demonstrate against the pension reform and its supposedly negative effects for women.

A strike began on 5 December to protest against broad changes to France’s pension system proposed by President Emmanuel Macron. This is the longest strike in modern French history.

Elsewhere, protests against the inequitable distribution of domestic work, sexual violence and femicide, and even gynecological and obstetrical violence. The key words will be many in parades and marches in the world’s biggest cities. This “March of the big winners”— named so ironically because the organizers do not believe in the promises of the government, which argues that its pension reform will be favorable to women— intends “to value the struggles of women,” and put forward demands “of equality and emancipation.”

The public agenda has several outstanding debts with gender equality and women’s rights: equality in the field of employment, coverage of comprehensive care services for all people regardless of their employment status, and especially considering the women with informal work. The prevention and attention of violence in public and private life, without necessarily implying the criminal response. The prevention of femicide, as well as the repair of its direct and secondary victims. Sexual and reproductive rights, ensuring that motherhood can be chosen with equal access to the right to legal termination of pregnancy.

Far from being a holiday, the origin of International Women’s Day, which is celebrated every March 8, emerged in a historical context of a struggle for equality, recognition and the effective exercise of women’s rights. A battle that is still necessary to combat gender violence, lack of opportunities and the great labor gap with men.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on the 8th of March every year around the world. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.

On March 8, 1857, women who worked in the textile industry— known as garment workers— from New York organized a protest. Their claim was against low wages and inhuman working conditions. The police did not hesitate and dispersed them by attacking them. Two years later, also in March, these women created their first union to protect themselves from their employers.

Another March 8, but from 1908, these 15,000 women returned to the streets of New York to demand a wage increase, the right to vote and the end of child labor. The slogan was “Bread and Roses.” Bread symbolized economic security and roses a better quality of life. In May of that same year, the Socialist Party of the United States declared February 28 as the first National Women’s Day. The Americans continued to celebrate it until 1913.

In 1910, they took another step. That year an international conference was held between socialist organizations in Copenhagen. There, it was proposed to create an International Women’s Day. The proposal was from the German socialist Clara Zetkin, who sought to commemorate the strike of the garment workers of the United States. Unanimously, the idea was approved by more than 100 women from 17 countries. Although at that time no specific day was set for the celebration.

The repercussion was immediate. In 1911, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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