Chantell Burrows & Nikki Godden (Blog Editors)
In the Press
All over the world women were celebrated, inspired and acknowledged for their achievements. It’s a time to reflect on the progress that has been made towards gender equality, as well as raising awareness as to particular challenges women still face in certain countries, and problems that are shared worldwide. On 8 March 2011, in its 100th year, International Women’s Day has acquired a dominant presence in the press globally.
From the UK, the Guardian had a fantastic webpage dedicated to the day – check this out if you haven’t already for the many and varied reports and stories – and all the comment articles were written by women. Overall, the feeling conveyed is of both pride and disappointment. Women should be proud to celebrate their history and progress in many ways, but we should not lose sight of the issue at hand. The Independent focused on the Join me on a Bridge campaign (see below), and in The Telegraph Tom Chivers points out that from 9 March it’s on to the next ‘364-consecutive-international-mens-days-again’.
But the UK response to this day is somewhat varied. Last year, the Daily Mail chose to report that ‘men enjoy half an hour more leisure time than women every day’ to mark the occasion, whilst this year Janet Street-Porter questioned why celebs don’t fight for women being ignored here in Britain, and pass up the trip to South Africa for charity work a far. This sensationalist tabloid response only highlights an unconvincing commitment, by some, to the real values behind IWD reminding us that it was indeed 08 March – International Women’s Day – and that there is still a very long way to go.
Many women and men were able to use the social networking device to tell the world which women inspired them, what they felt about the gender pay gap, and what they thought about Lord Alan Sugar suggesting that women should disclose to employers their plans for a family. It was a global trending topic and many Twitterers were using their 140 characters to tell the world what they thought. Some of the top tweets were from those talking about their IWD-designed clothes, cupcakes, events and Emmeline Pankhurst. For those who use Twitter regularly, it truly felt like a celebration. That was until a tweet from Harriet Harman brought home that the situation for women in England isn’t all cupcakes and joyous events. She wrote:
“Can’t believe that Stephen Obrien MP will lead Thursday Commons debate on int. women’s day. Absurd! Tory women “seen and not heard.”
The debate taking place on 10 March would discuss women and equality without, it seems, steering by women as the leaders of this debate. It is no longer enough that women and equality are being discussed in the House of Commons – women should be using their voice to relay their experiences and how they feel they can incite change. This cannot happen if women are “seen and not heard.”
Campaigns and Activities
From the global …
If you haven’t already seen it, take a look at Women for Women’s second year of their global ‘Join me on the Bridge’ campaign which aims to
‘unite women all over the world in a global women’s movement showing that women can build the bridges of peace and development for the future. On March 8, 2010, thousands of women will stand together in Congo and neighboring Rwanda to demand peace and development. Supporting them in their call for the war’s end will be thousands of women from Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria, as well as in the United States and the United Kingdom, to say no to war and yes to peace and hope’.
It was such a success last year and the video of images the events which took place on bridges all over the world are inspiring (see this on their website, hyperlink above), and this years’ collection of clips are awaited in anticipation.
To the local …
I went to Newcastle Feminist Society’s fun and fabulous ‘Bread and Roses’ night with comedy, music, dancing a quiz and the launch of Speak, which is a collection of anonymous stories of sexual experiences (inspired by Edinburgh Feminist Society), and all the money raised went to the local rape crisis centre. It’s an event that is not to be missed – so look out for this next year!
A list of events by country can be found on the International Women’s day website, here. And the UK can be proud of its 469 promoted events – the most listed here and well above the next country in line Canada with 267 events and the US with 260.
IWD should continue to be a day of celebration, but we should not become complacent. It should be a day of reflection – let us not undo the work of those before us. IWD – our readings, our tweets, our campaigns and events – should remind us that we must sustain momentum and keep women’s issues at the forefront of the political, economic and social agenda.