“EQUALITY FOR WOMEN IS PROGRESS FOR ALL”: WHY IWD IS FOREVER IMPORTANT
By Catherine McLean
In 1910, Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany proposed an idea at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. On March 19th of the following year, the idea became a reality; it was the first International Women’s Day.
The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.
The inaugural IWD was a huge success. Hundreds of meetings and protests were held across the European continent. The largest demonstration attracted 30 000 women. Taking place some 15 years before most European nations received female suffrage, this was an event far ahead of its time. Town squares and public halls filled with women demanding the right to vote and to hold public office. Two years later, IWD was shifted to March 8th and has fallen on this date ever since.
The women involved in the formative years of IWD paved the way for future generations of women to come. They took some of the first steps toward true gender equality and helped to introduce the world to feminism. Or, to use the words of Cheris Kramarae, “the radical notion that women are human beings.” From gaining the right to vote and to hold public office to being able to use effective contraception and have access to a personal bank account, women in the developed and developing worlds alike have come a long way since 1911. But we are not there yet. According to the Afghanistan Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2010-2011) carried out by UNICEF, 92% of Afghan women feel that a husband can justify beating his wife for a number of reasons including: burning the food, leaving the house without telling the husband and refusing sex. This is a residual effect of 82% of Afghan women receiving no education. Having said that, Afghan women have also made some extraordinary progress since the oppressive Talban regime was dismantled in 2011. In a country where females did not even have the right to a primary education, an incredible quarter of all Afghan MPs and Senators are now women. There is no doubt that the female presence in Afghan politics will inspire improvements to the lives of so many Afghan women. At the heart of this will be discussion and debate on a domestic level as well as working closely with the international audience – something that is facilitated by events like International Women’s Day.
This is even important for developed countries. In Australia, men dominate all career paths (apart from nursing and teaching). There is a 30% pay gap between male and female full-time workers in six of Australia’s largest employment sectors. This atmosphere of misogyny even filters through to the home. A shocking 33.3% of Australian women still face domestic violence at some point in their lives. Simply put, events like International Women’s Day are so important for a number of reasons. Of course, IWD allows women to reflect on the adversity we have faced in the past. It is also a day for celebration of our achievements. But most importantly, International Women’s Day is an event that facilitates discussion. This is important for women all over the globe. It allows women to be educated and inspired to exercise the momentous untapped potential that we, the oppressed majority, hold. 44
This edition of AM-UNITY Magazine sees a focus on Refugee/Asylum Seeker Rights, Afghan Women’s Rights and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgende...