A hundred years ago a feisty group of women met in Copenhagen and voted unanimously to launch an International Women's Day on March 8. The idea took. Today, some 15 countries celebrate it as a national holiday, and thousands of events worldwide put women's issues in the spotlight. Women are, after all, half the population, so the day has mutated into a month of events.
This year, the Global Network of Women of Faith took advantage of the energy around a bevy of United Nations-sponsored events on gender issues to launch a summit on "restoring dignity" for women's month. The hot topic was violence against women and girls.
One of the speakers was Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune, who runs the Faith Institute and has worked all her life to fight domestic violence. She asked her audience (most but not all women) to stand if they had experienced violence themselves or in their family. Most stood. Then those who knew someone who was a victim of violence were asked to stand. Finally, she called on everyone else to stand, because even if they were not aware of it, they surely knew someone who had suffered violence. Surveys show that perhaps 70 percent of women worldwide experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, and some 5,000 women a year are murdered by family members in the name of honor.
Episcopal Life Online reports on the Anglican Women gathering in New York at the United Nations:
Thousands of women from around the world, including more than 90 representing the Anglican Communion, will gather in New York March 1-12 for the 54th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women to undertake a 15-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The CSW is the oldest U.N. standing commission. It meets annually to examine a different theme as it relates to gender equity -- global poverty, economics, peacekeeping, human rights, etc. -- from the lens of the most vulnerable and exploited communities, mostly women and children, said Alessandra Peña, a consultant for the Anglican United Nations Thematic Working Group on Women's Right and Empowerment.
The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, president of the Episcopal Women's Caucus write in her blog and offers some suggestions for action:
According to the United Nations, the first International Women's Day was celebrated in 1911. More than one million women and men attended rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. They demanded the right to vote and hold public office, and for an end to job discrimination.
The day is now marked as a time "to reflect on the progress we've made to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights," the United Nations says.
In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, IWD is a national holiday.
And then, there are places like Uganda, where,Action Aid reports, that sexual violence is the main reason that girls drop out of school.
They also report that:
70% of those living in poverty are women
45 million girls are currently denied an education
Women in poor countries grow more than 60% of the food but own less than 1% of the land
Every minute a woman dies as a result of pregnancy complications
Women's Alliance for Theology Ethics and Ritual (WATER)
sends you blessings and best wishes on International Women’s Day. Our work is sustained and engaged in by women around the world. Today we give special thanks for each and every one of you. We recommit to bringing feminist religious values to the work of global social justice.
Mary E. Hunt
Diann L. Neu
Grandmère Mimi writes on International Women's Day at Wounded Bird.