With International Women’s Day fast approaching, it’s important to know why we celebrate, and indeed who we should be celebrating. You may also be wondering how best to spend the day.
From the Suffragettes to Malala Yousafzai, there are so many women, throughout history and currently who deserve to be publicly celebrated for their work in women’s rights. And, with so many fantastic women who go unnoticed, we should also give some attention to those lesser known names this year.
For instance, we must thank Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) for her contributions to politics and education, resulting in increased gender and race equality. By opening the “Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls” she paved the way to increased education and knowledge, particularly for girls, following a period which denied black people the right to education during the slave trade. Politically, she risked her own safety to encourage female voting and registration, and became the founding president of the National Council of Negro Women. Encouraging black women’s participation in economic, political, and educational activities and institutions, the NCNW still runs to this day.
Over 20,000 joined the protest against poor working conditions at the Grunwick film processing factory in London
Every effort to change conditions for women, whether successful or small scale, deserves to be recognised. Jayaben Desai (1933-2010) should be celebrated for her contribution to raising awareness of the need for equal working rights, as a leader of the Grunwick workers strike in 1976. Over 20,000 joined the protest against poor working conditions at the Grunwick film processing factory in London, made up of majority South Asian Female workers. They were not willing to accept the degrading treatment that often came associated with low paid jobs. Although the strikers were ultimately defeated, Desai was unwavering in her position, highlighting the message that women should not and do not have to accept such conditions and treatment.
Carmen Barroso has dedicated most of her life to fighting for women’s rights regarding access to healthcare (particularly sexual and reproductive). A feminist from an early childhood in Brazil, Barroso went on to become a director at the MacArthur Foundation. It was here she helped voice the stories of women from developing countries experiences with healthcare, bringing it to attention at the International Conference on Population and Development. The conference saw the recognition of sexual and reproductive health as an essential right. She also went on to become a director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Amidst the celebrations, it’s crucial to keep awareness of this raised, and do everything we can to help change the situation for these women
These are just some of the women we ought to thank (all year round) and celebrate on the 8th March. So how can you spend International Women’s day this year, ensuring you demonstrate gratitude and awareness? Most major cities around the UK have events planned to mark the day, such as Newcastle’s UV themed walk or run. Whether celebrating on the streets or striking the #EachforEqual pose, we should recognise how lucky many of us are, without denying the fact that there is still a long way to go. From an international perspective, women across the globe are still struggling with inequality and endure mistreatment. So, amidst the celebrations, it’s crucial to stay aware of this, and do everything we can to help change the situation for these women.
Last modified: 26th February 2020