International Women's Day 2008


Today, 8 March 2008, Socialist International Women proudly celebrates International Women's Day.

The concept of an International Women's Day was formed in the early part of the 20th century when many demonstrations over poor working conditions began to take place. Most notably on 8 March 1908, fifteen thousand women took to the streets of New York City in protest to demand shorter working hours, better pay, the right to vote and an end to child labour. They adopted the slogan "Bread and Roses," the bread symbolising economic security whilst the word roses stood for a better quality of life.

This protest, together with many others, was the inspiration which led the Second International Conference of Socialist Women (now the Socialist International Women) in Copenhagen in 1910, to adopt a resolution demanding a day in the year to commemorate International Women's Day. As a result of the decision taken at Copenhagen, one year later an International Women's Day was established for the first time in many European countries, including Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland and throughout the years, many more countries were to follow.

The Socialist International Women, from its very beginning, has always advocated for women to participate in politics, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) women's representation in national parliaments is only a mere 17.3% worldwide, and in cabinet positions the percentage of women ministers is even lower. For this reason, International Women's Day, should be a day to encourage women and men to continue the struggle for democracy and equality for all.

The United Nations (UN) has also played an important role in shaping International Women's Day. In 1975, during International Women's Year, the UN began celebrating 8 March as International Women's Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

The International Women's Day is also a day to honour those women who have stood out and who have shown courage in the struggle for an equal world for all. It is on this occasion that the Socialist International Women would like to pay tribute to Benazir Bhutto – a political leader who dedicated her life to peace and democracy in Pakistan and who showed enormous courage in returning to her country to participate in the elections, knowing fully well the challenges and dangers that awaited her and sadly cost her her life.

On International Women's Day it is also vital to highlight the end to violence against women. Violence against women is not acceptable, can never be justified and cannot be tolerated. For this very reason Socialist International Women supports the UN campaign 'Unite to End Violence Against Women' launched by the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on the occasion of the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, in New York, 25 February 2008. This campaign will continue until 2015 to coincide with the target date for the Millennium Development Goals.

To conclude, Socialist International Women strongly believes that International Women's Day is a global day to come together to celebrate women's diversity and the progress that has been achieved so far. It is also a day to honour those women who have made a difference and a day to inspire women and men to continue the struggle for peace, democracy, justice and equality for all.



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By Irmtraut Karlsson

This book tells the history of the first one hundred years of the Socialist International Women