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International Women’s Day - Women's Solidarity Across the World

But How True Is This Today

By Reija SillanpaaPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 4 min read
International Women’s Day - Women's Solidarity Across the World
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

International Women’s Day - a day when we celebrate women’s achievements and call for action. It is a day to reflect on how far we have come and how far we haven’t.

IWD is supposed to be about solidarity among all women, but this year, more than ever, I am questioning how true this really is.

A Brief History of IWD

IWD has a longer history than many realise, dating back over a century. In 1910, when over 100 women from 17 countries gathered in Copenhagen for the second International Conference of Working Women, Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) proposed the idea of IWD. She suggested that every country should celebrate women on the same day every year, and the members of the conference agreed unanimously.

Following the decision made in Copenhagen, IWD was marked for the first time on March 19, 1911, in Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Over a million women and men took part in IWD rallies, calling for equal rights to work, vote, hold public office, and end discrimination against women.

In 1913, Russian women campaigned for peace and honoured their first IWD on February 23 on the Julian Calendar used in Russia. This date translated to March 8 in the Gregorian calendar and following discussions, it was agreed to mark IWD annually on this date.

The first time the United Nations marked IWD was in 1975. Two years later, a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace was adopted by the General Assembly. Since 1996, the UN has had an annual theme for IWD. This year the theme is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”

IWD Today

While much has changed since the first IWD was honoured in 1911, much remains to be done. While in many countries women have the same rights as men, there are many countries where women have no rights. Therefore, as much as this day is to celebrate women's social, cultural, economic, and political achievements, it equally needs to be a day when we speak up.

However, we should not only speak up on March 8 because it is IWD and then forget about all the injustices as we carry on with our daily lives. Every day can be a call to action until injustices exist no more. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever see that day but I hope future generations will.

Fostering Solidarity

According to the International Women’s Day website, IWD is “not country, group, nor organisation specific.” The purpose of IWD is to foster a sense of solidarity among women across the world. It is supposed to be based on “community, connection, and collaborative action.” It is supposed to be a day that belongs to all groups of women everywhere.

But how true is that?

More Solidarity for Some

Since the October 7 attack, very little has been said in the media about the sexual violence used by Hamas, including rape and genital mutilation. It took the UN Women until December 1 to issue a statement condemning the brutal attacks by Hamas. In their statement, they wrote:

“We deeply regret that military operations have resumed in Gaza, and we reiterate that all women, Israeli women, Palestinian women, as all others, are entitled to a life lived in safety and free from violence.”

I could think of many different ways to start the statement other than “We deeply regret”. Somehow, it sounds just so… inadequate, more suited to statements regarding company closures and job losses than a statement about using sexual violence as a weapon.

Equally, there has been silence among women I know. Women who are usually very vocal about women’s rights. Well-educated women. Women who roared against Trump because of his derogative comments about women.

Yet, these same women have not raised their voices to condemn the actions of Hamas on October 7. Neither are they demanding the liberation of the 19 women (and others) still held hostage by Hamas.

Why the Silence?

True solidarity among women should mean that all acts of sexual violence against women are equally condemned regardless of who the victims are or what the situation was.

If you are not condemning the acts of sexual violence or keeping hostages (which, by the way, is also a war crime and comes under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court) by Hamas, then you are sending a message that not all acts of sexual violence against women are equally wrong.

Condemning Sexual Violence by Hamas Does Not Mean You Cannot Advocate for Peace

Now there may be some readers who may at this point want to say I do not want a ceasefire. That is not true. Of course, I want the fighting to end.

I want Hamas to release the rest of the hostages and I want those who committed acts of sexual violence tried for their crimes. I do not want any more civilians in Israel or Palestine to become victims of war.

It is possible to both want peace and condemn the sexual violence by Hamas. You can advocate for peace whilst demanding that those who committed rape and other acts of sexual violence on October 7 are brought to justice.

One does not cancel out the other.

True Solidarity

Women have only achieved as much as we have (in certain countries) by standing together. We should not be silent on any sexual assaults on women. There is never any possible justification or extenuating circumstances for rape.

True solidarity means we speak up on all gender-based crimes. We cannot choose to shout about some and be silent on others.

Rape is always a crime.

So I ask you, when you advocate for peace, make sure you also demand that those who committed sexual crimes on October 7 are held responsible.

- - -

On that note, I truly hope we can honour Women's Day in 2025 in happier circumstances.

politicsfeminismCONTENT WARNINGactivism

About the Creator

Reija Sillanpaa

A wise person said, "Be your own audience". Therefore, I write fiction, poetry and about matters important and interesting to me. That said, I warmly welcome you into my audience.

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Comments (2)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran3 months ago

    No matter what the gender, race, religion, etc, all sexual crimes are wrong. More people need to understand this

  • Alex H Mittelman 3 months ago

    It’s good to have solidarity! Well written!

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