|Tracing the roots of March 8 . . . Reclaiming the Voices of Women....
March 8 . . .
1857 - one of the first organized actions by
working women anywhere in the world. Hundreds of women garment and
textile workers went on strike in New York City, in protest of low
wages, long working hours and inhumane working conditions. Police violently
attacked the workers, many were injured, many were arrested.
1908 - "Bread and Roses" was chanted
as a campaign slogan by some 30,000 women workers who took to the streets
of New York. Bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better
quality of life. The women workers were calling for shorter work hours,
better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. Within a few
years of their "Bread and Roses" campaign, the first women's
labour union in America was organized.
1911 - working women from Germany, Austria,
Denmark and other European countries held strikes and marches. Russian
revolutionary and feminist Aleksandra Kollantai, who helped organized
the event, described it as "one seething trembling sea of women." Aleksandra
Kollantai and Klara Zetkin, a German socialist, proposed that there
should be international solidarity among exploited women workers. Thus,
these women have been known to be the founders of International Women's
1914 - women opposing war staged mass protests
all over Europe. The World War I was waged not without dissent from
women. They were organizing and demonstrating for peace, across cultural
divides. This set-off series of powerful marches and demonstrations
all throughout, with women from both sides of the war participating
1917 - The "Bread and Peace" strike
led by the Russian women in St. Petersburg. The IWD strike, which was
participated in by Klara Zetkin and Aleksandra Kollantai, merged with
riots that had spread throughout the city between March 8-12. This
later became known as "The February Revolution" which forced
the authoritarian rule of Czar Nicholas II to end. (Russia switched
from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1918, which moved the
dates of the February revolution [Feb. 24-28, old style] to March.)
March 8 - "The Heroic Woman Worker" is
commemorated and celebrated on this day, as Aleksandra Kollantai, as
a minister in the first Soviet government, persuaded Lenin to make
March 8 as an official communist holiday.
The history of March 8 as the International Women's
Day is rooted on the movement for women's rights and peace. IWD was
commemorated in the United States during the 1910s and 1920s, but then
dwindled. It was revived during the women's movement in the 1960s,
but without its socialist associations. In 1975, the United Nations
began sponsoring International Women's Day.
The women's movements in the Asia Pacific region have
long joined in the celebration of the IWD. While equal rights, quality
of life and peace have been consistently upheld as the demands of women,
there were also other issues highlighted which are urgent and particular
to the lives and context of women in the region. The use of rape by
the state as a weapon of war has ravaged the lives of hundreds of women
in Burma. The increasing aggressive US military presence in the Philippines
and its war on terrorism has heightened violence in the communities,
causing insecurity and death among women human rights defenders. The
lack of legal recognition of sex work in Thailand has increased the
level of vulnerabilities of sex workers.
However, over the years, the tradition of the IWD
has slowly been co-opted by the governments. March 8 as the International
Women's Day is increasingly becoming an occasion for UN-sponsored international
conferences, national government-sponsored festivities and grand receptions.
While these help popularise the significance of March 8, that is to
highlight the urgent issues of women, and a space to create international
solidarity among women, these government grand events overshadow the
genuine spirit of political activism of IWD.
March 8, as the International Women's Day, has the
tradition of protest and activism. Let us keep it alive. Let us not
allow for this day to be a government-sponsored celebration led by
women who enjoy privileges of power and wealth, while majority of the
women continue to live a life of poverty, exploitation and oppression.
Let them not speak for us.
So on March 8, 2004, let us take to the streets, as
our sisters did generations ago. Let our own voices be heard.
In Malaysia, International Women’s Day will be marked under the
umbrella of the Women’s Aid Organisation, and in cooperation with
Sisters in Islam, Amnesty International, All Women’s Action Society
and Malaysian AIDS Council, employing the theme; “It begins with
respect”. These non-governmental actors in the women’s movement
have organised a day of activities geared towards empowerment in the
face of violence towards women. “A Girl’s Day Out-It Begins
With Respect” is the theme of a day wherein with free admission
young women can experience a supportive, safe, secure and loving environment.
The daylong event will include self-defense demonstrations, challenges,
competitions and celebrations of women’s right to access public
and private spaces safely and freely. The event, scheduled for March
13th and 14th is planned to create a forum that will encourage the next
generation of political activism among young women. In keeping with the
theme of this year’s IWD, the Women’s Aid Organisation will
be focusing much of its energies on reforming the Domestic Violence Act
and on publicising the Rape Helpline (03-79603030).
This year marks the 20th Korean Women’s Rally for the International
Women’s Day. More than 2,000 people, mostly women activists, including
children, marched to and gathered in front of the National Assembly for
March 8, as the Korean Women’s Association United (KWAU) launched
the Women’s Quilt Campaign in 20 different cities in Korea. The
quilt symbolises the cover-up being used for the corrupted national assembly.
Each year for the March 8 rally, KWAU raises 10 women’s issues,
with the following main demands:
In spite of the terribly cold weather, the participants enjoyed the rally and
stayed on, as they listened to the 20 year history of the Korean Women’s
- Women’s Political Participation
Creating for Women
- Abolition of Patriarchal Family Surname
- Eradication of Trafficking and Prostitution
of Discrimination against Informal Workers
- Increase of
Day Care Budget
- Establishment of Equal Family Policy
of Disabled and Women Farmers
- Women’s Participation
in Local Autonomy
- Anti-War and Peace in Korean Peninsula
TAMIL NADU, INDIA
This year the International Women’s Day was remembered and observed as
a ‘protest day’ by Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum / Tamil Nadu Dalit
Women’s Movement. A series of protest meetings were held at different districts
in Tamil Nadu.
a) Public Protest Meeting
In Vellore District meetings were held in membrance on International Women’s
Day at different villages in protest of the increasing violence against women,
hazards of globalisation on women, unemployment and poverty. Public meetings
were organized at Thirumalpur, Sirunamalli, Parameswaramangalam, Bodaparai, Marimangalam,
and Anandapuram on March 8th, 2004. In each village women ranging from 300 to
Public meetings were held on March 8th, in Tiruvallur District at V.K.N. Kandigai,
N.N. Kandigai, Narayanapuram, and at Iluppur. The response for the protest was
over whelming in these areas. Women raised slogans protesting against fundamentalism,
migration, trafficking of women, unemployment, domestic violence and State violence.
The participants expressed their grievances. It was a platform for the rural
women to come together and to raise their protest voice together - to commemorate
March 8th International Women’s Day.
b) Hunger Strike Against State violence on women
In observance of the women’s day on March 12, 2004, more than a thousand
women sat together in a hunger strike against the state violence on women. Grass
root women leaders from throughout the State participated in the protest and
shared the different forms of violence meted out on women by the state agencies.
The protesters raised their voice in support of the women leaders who were arrested
arbitrarily by the police for raising their voices against illegal sand quarrying.
The meeting demanded the withdrawl of the case and the release of the arrested
without any condition. The hunger strike came to an end at 4.30 p.m. The arrested
persons were released on that evening after 17 days of Imprisonment.
c) Sex Workers Seminar
On March 15, 2004 more than four hundred sex workers from Tiruttani, Thiruvalangadu,
Perambakkam, Sholingur, Arakkona and Kancheepuram gathered together in a seminar
at the district head quarter in Kancheepuram. The seminar focused on ‘ prevention
of HIV/AIDS and the rights of sex workers’. Other than sex workers, several
proffesionals from different districts had gathered together in support of the
rights of sex workers. Doctors and other professionalists shared their knowledge
on prevention of HIV /AIDS and the rights of women. Ten sex workers from Tirupathi,
Andhra Pradesh participated and shared their life stories and their liberation.
In that meeting women decided not to support the present ruling party which is
anti Dalit and anti Women.
d) Public Meeting in Protest Against sexual harassment on a 3 year old Dalit
On March 17 2004, a public meeting was organised at Chinnammapettai in Tiruvallur
district. The meeting was in protest against a recent child sexual atrocity.
A sixteen year old boy Gothandapani raped a three year old Dalit Girl child on
March 7, 2004. Sexual atrociticies against Dalit girl children are more frequent
in this area. The public meeting demanded stringent punishment for the perpetrator
and insisted the state implement preventive measures against such practices.
The demand was made by the participants for a new legislation with stringent
punishment for the offence. More than five hundred women participated from the
victim’s village and the surrounding villages. Women activists and professionals
participated and addressed the violence in the light of national and international
human rights standards.
Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum,
Society For Rural Education and Development, Tamil Nadu Dalit Women’s Movement.
GABRIELA, the militant women’s alliance in the Philippines, joins women
friends and comrades across the globe in the commemoration of the International
Women’s Day on March 8, 2004. We hold out our hand in solidarity to peace-loving
women all over the world in opposing the unjust occupation of imperialist United
States in the countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and the blatant military
intervention in Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, North Korea, Philippines and other sovereign
nations. 2,600 American troops are currently taking part in the Balikatan Military
Exercise in Palawan, Philippines where the Malampaya field with oil reserves
is located. While we import oil, foreign monopolies like Royal/Dutch Shell at
Chevron Texaco plunders our natural resources.
GABRIELA Greetings on the occasion of International Women’s Day
This is in the midst of an ever worsening economic crisis: rising prices of commodities,
increasing power and water rates and the higher cost of sending our children
to school. Aside from the 30 Philippine peso cost of living allowance that was
given to workers in 2001, there was never a wage increase under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s
rule. Meanwhile regular jobs are nearing extinction, as contractual hiring becomes
the prevalent form of employment. The value of the peso against the dollar is
continually diminishing - 56.20 when it was only 55.90 days ago. Thus, prices
of imported commodities, like oil, continue to rise.
Violence against women is exacerbated by this tremendous crisis. According to
the Center for Women’s Resources, there are 3,913 rape cases from January
to September 2003. Due attention should also be given to the the fact that 1
Filipina is raped every 1 hour and 16 minute, one Filipinas is battered every
1 hour and 24 minutes and one child is beaten every 3 hours. Furthermore, these
only reflect the reported cases, the real picture of violence against women and
children is much worst.
But the worst violator of women is the state. Around 18,000 Filipino families
were victims of human rights violation under Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo regime.
Of the total 308 political detainees, 13 are women and 18 are children. Among
them Zenaida Llesis and her one-year-old daughter named Gabriela and Irene Plagtiosa
and her child, both have been detained for three years now.
In the Philippines, our call is for militant action. If we do not struggle, our
children will face the bleakest future.As the world pays homage to women on this
day for our significant roles in nation building, Gabriela takes this occasion
to challenge all women’s groups and individuals to work harder for genuine
social and political change. We call on everyone to commemorate this special
day to reinvigorate ourselves in our continuing struggle for women’s rights,
welfare and genuine liberation along with the democratic people’s movement
of the world.
This March 8, Gabriela has taken on the challenge to take our struggle further
into the political front through the party list elections and raises the banner
of GABRIELA Women’s Partylist. It is time that women benefit from a more
genuine representation in government institutions like the House of Representatives
and elsewhere. On the strength of our unity as women, this is an opportune time
for Gabriela to push forward the politics of change to benefit all women and
oppressed democratic sectors of our society.
This March 8, Gabriela shall ceaselessly call for food for all families, jobs
with just wages for all workers, and social rights.
Down with U.S. Imperialism!
Advance the Struggle for Women’s Rights, Welfare and Genuine Liberation!
Long live Militant Women’s Movements worldwide!
Long Live International Solidarity!