On March the 8th, 1857, hundreds of women garment and textile workers went on strike in New York City to protest against low wages, long working hours, and inhumane working conditions. The event was marred with violence and bloodshed when the police intervened.
The United Nations began observing International Women's Day, March 8, in 1975 -- the International Women's Year. Observing the Day in 1998, the Secretary-General called for "new forms of solidarity for the promotion and protection of the rights of both women and men", stated that "there is no excuse" for limited "participation of women at senior levels of leadership", and stressed "two issues that take on particular urgency: violence against women, and women and armed conflict". International Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women's groups around the world.

Women’s rights begin with respect of the human rights of girls. Yet an international women's treaty banning discrimination that has been ratified by 169 countries so far, has not moved beyond the United States Senate ever since President Carter sent it there for
ratification in 1980. In part due to those who agree with the criticism expressed by Jesse Helms who views the treaty as "a vehicle for imposing abortion on countries that still protect the rights of the unborn," the real intent of the treaty: to help third-world women gain their barest human rights, has been overshadowed. Each year about one million girls
in the third world die because of mistreatment and discrimination. In countries such as Pakistan, the treaty has in some cases meant the difference between life and death. Here, women who become pregnant after being raped are often prosecuted for adultery and sentenced to death by stoning, but this treaty has helped them escape execution.

The celebration of International Women’s day offers victim service advocates an opportunity to promote awareness of violence against women on a global scale. While this very significant anniversary is often used to celebrate the achievements of women, it is
also a vehicle for drawing attention to the issues that affect female mental and physical health, including gender-based violence. Cultural validation, awareness of the universality of human rights, and how international policies affect women's rights, are just
some of the benefits of adding the March 8, anniversary date to our other main victim rights calendar periods: April – Sexual Assault Awareness Month and October – Domestic Violence Awareness Month. By including girls, their voices, and opinions in
this international celebration we can help encourage them to develop their own risk reduction messages and lay the foundation for solidarity and sisterhood in the violence against women and girls struggle.

Reasons Texans Should Celebrate International Women's Day

The Silent Problem of Sexual Violence: Last year approximately 104,516 adults and 226,438 children (mostly women and girls) were sexually assaulted in Texas.  Only 7-18 percent of rapes or attempted rapes are reported to Texas police (National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center).

Dating Violence Protective Orders: S.B. 68 This law amends the definition of family violence to include "dating violence."  Victims of dating violence are now eligible for the same protective orders, including magistrate's orders of emergency protection, as family violence victims. This new law defines "dating relationship" as a "relationship between individuals who have or have had a continuing social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature."

The Violence Against Women Act Self-Petitioning Provision for Immigrant Women: Education on immigrant rights will enable more immigrant women to leave an abusive relationship. Many immigrant women living in the U.S. have left abusive relationships because of the legal remedies and protection available to them under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

Improved Penalties for Hate Crimes:  H.B. 587 Provides for penalty enhancement for offenses motivated by bias or prejudice based on ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  Since each of these areas need improvement and everyone is affected by acts of irrational hate, this law benefits all of our communities.

Increase awareness of women's health issues by  focusing on health education for women, not only in the areas of reproductive health, but also other serious health issues such as AIDS, cancer, osteoporosis, and eating disorders.

Bi-national Solidarity: Since economic development does not always translate into respect for women’s rights on both sides of the Texas/Mexico border.  Only 11 of 32 Mexican states make domestic violence a crime while in the remaining states, beating wives or children is not considered a crime (National Organization for Women 12/24/01).  Language barriers, cultural factors, and fear of deportation mean Hispanics may be even less likely to report sexual assault (Ron Acierno, an assistant professor with the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center). Currently in Texas, the lack of bilingual victim services denies many, the right to seek justice and safety.

International Solidarity: Violence Against Women Knows No Borders: An idea that emerged at the recent Afghan Women's Summit in Brussels was to declare “Afghanistan is everywhere” as a theme for International Women's Day, March 8, 2002.  This alludes to the sentiment that we are all joined in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan not only because we all identify with how they have suffered but also because we understand that the same conditions of violence, oppression, invisibility, and other forms of inequality that plague Afghanistan are universal.

Achievements & Diversity: International Women’s Day promotes the celebration of women’s contributions and achievements throughout the world, it also reminds us of our strength in diversity.

For more information about IWD:

A History of International Women's Day
This cyber version of the 1985 edition of the book
offers a rich historical chronology of Australian
commemorations of IWD.

Why Women’s Day?
Why dedicate a day exclusively to the celebration of the world’s women? This link offers a variety of questions regarding the rationale for celebrating International Women’s Day.

A newsletter of the NGO Working Groups on Girls, WGGs, (New York and Geneva) and the International Network for Girls, INfG.

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