International Women’s Day Observed Across the Globe
March 8, 2017
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It is International Women’s Day. Adopted by the United Nations in 1975, the March 8 observance is a reminder to continue the advancement of women worldwide.
“Let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres in a video message for 2017.
These words have rang true today, as rallies, marches, and other forms of activism span countries.
Organizers of the Women’s March on Washington earlier this year came together to orchestrate “A Day without a Woman,” which is a strike in which females refrain from working or spending money to show their economic impact in a world that often undermines them. Those participating wear red, a color which represents “revolutionary love and sacrifice,” as well as holds historical significance with the labor movement.
Several public school closings have occurred in states such as Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia due to staff absences.
On Monday afternoon, Alexandria City Public Schools announced closures of all schools, as more than 300 school faculty had requested leave for March 8. The decision resulted in a mixed reaction from parents.
“Taxpayers should be outraged. How many women (and men) had to reschedule their day or scramble to find child care today? Protest on your own dime and time,” said one person on the district’s Facebook page.
The international day was not left unnoticed by several Democratic congresswomen, who staged a walkout. Upon exiting the House chamber, a handful of female lawmakers gave brief remarks, such as Rep. Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Others also joined them on the Capitol steps, holding signs.
Rep. Barbara Lee (Calif.) addressed the crowd as warrior women, stating that they were standing for equality and justice.
“We also recognize that there are millions of women who are unable to walk out because they may get fired or cannot afford to lose their meager incomes,” she said. “So we walked out for them, too.”
In New York, protesters were sitting in the street outside Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle, blocking traffic. Among those arrested were the four organizers of the Women’s March–Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez.
Additional protests were made in other states, including Philadelphia, Utah, and California.
First Lady Melania Trump hosted a luncheon in the White House for about 50 women in honor of the day. Her step daughter Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos were among the attendees.
President Donald Trump also weighed in on the observance, tweeting out supportive sentiments earlier this morning. “I have tremendous respect for women and the many roles they serve that are vital to the fabric of our society and our economy,” he wrote. “On International Women’s Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world.”
Meanwhile, more than 50 countries across the globe have recognized the international holiday in numerous ways – and experienced a number of reactions.
In Russia, Valentine’s Day is also celebrated today. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a national five-year plan promoting women’s interests. President Vladimir Putin congratulated women for filling the world with beauty and vitality, as well as giving warmth, comfort, cordiality and harmony “with your tenderness and generosity of spirit.” It was also reported that police officers were pulling over female drivers, giving them flowers rather than tickets. However, the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta said that activists outside the Kremlin in Moscow had been arrested.
Protests to address social, political, and economic issues have been held. Marches for equal rights and treatment occurred in Italy, France, Australia, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Brazil, India, Puerto Rico, Ireland, South Korea, Argentina, and Poland. Celebrations in Indonesia and Sri Lanka also ensued.
Ireland has pledged to eliminate its gender pay gap by 2022, announcing a law which requires firms with a staff of 25 or more individuals to acquire a certificate demonstrating pay equality.
In Romania, the names of women who had been killed by their partners were read in order to draw attention to domestic violence.
People gathered in Madrid, Spain to mark the ending of a group of women’s 26-day hunger strike. The activists had asked for better protections for women of domestic violence, and received assurances from lawmakers.
In China, women receive half a day off from work. Two years ago on International Women’s Day, five feminists planning a protest against sexual harassment were arrested by authorities. On February 20 of this year, the Women’s Voices blog run by Chinese feminists was suspended for 30 days.
Turkish Airlines offered business class service to more than 200 women flying out of Istanbul as initially economy class passengers. On the other hand, multiple celebrations in Turkey have been marked by police interventions, as officers stop demonstrations or attack those marching. A group of 30-40 people wielding knives interrupted a celebration at a university campus in Istanbul, injuring several students. A message from those participating in marches calls for “an end to violence, sexual abuse, and discrimination against women.”
Regardless of personal opinions towards forms of commemoration, the advocacy of women across the globe is a breath of hope.