A Reflection & Celebration of International Women’s Day
by Diane Kays, Chairperson of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women
International Women’s Day (IWD) is declared by the United Nations and recognized worldwide on March 8 of each year. Today IWD is 102 years old.
I would like to reflect briefly on the earlier years and the roots of IWD when women’s activism for rights and their global struggle for equality became visible in the early 1900s. In 1910 the 2nd International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen and IWD was proposed and received approval. In 1911, IWD was marked for the first time on March 19. The following week, on March 25, the tragic “Triangle Fire” in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women (mostly immigrants) and drew attention to their terrible working conditions. In 1913, the date for IWD was changed to March 8, where it has remained. The history of IWD is rich in stories of courage, perseverance, resistance, change and celebration.
In recent years we have seen change and an attitudinal shift about women’s equality. However, more than a century after the first IWD, many of the issues that led to activism for International Women’s Day remain visible in today’s world. The fact remains that women are still not paid equally to their male counterparts. Women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and statistics of violence against women and children remain at an alarming level.
We need to be mindful, more than ever, of the many women around the world who are still struggling for basic human rights and to stand in solidarity with them.
Their lives are connected to our lives in this globalized world. Less than six months ago, a factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killed more than 100 workers, mostly women, labouring in unsafe conditions to make garments primarily for the North American market. This fire was not unlike the “Triangle Fire” that helped spur the movement for International Women’s Day.
Also, we have daily reminders in the media of women around the world who have experienced brutal violence and those that have lost their lives in their pursuit of basic rights such as an education. Every day, women are used as pawns of war and experience rape and subjugation in war zones.
Improvements have been made. We want to acknowledge the positives on International Women’s Day, and to celebrate the journey of women over the years – to focus on our hope that women’s equality will be a reality and that women’s successes will truly be shared internationally. Here on PEI, the staff and Council members of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women are committed to continuing to work on the numerous equality issues and to improving the status of women on PEI, which will result in benefits for all family members, and all Islanders.
On March 8, staff and members of the PEI Advisory Council on the Status of Women will be holding a regular meeting and later joining with others at IWD events. We invite you to join us in a celebration reception at 5:00 p.m., followed at 6:00 by the PEI premiere viewing of the NFB film “Status Quo?: The Unfinished Business of Feminism in Canada.” Celebrations will take place at St. Peter’s Cathedral Hall in Charlottetown.
As we come together for International Women’s Day on March 8, 2013 we will remember the women who came before us, appreciate the achievements, and acknowledge that here and around the world, we are not where we should be, but we will be one day.