Today is International Women’s Day. Since its inception in the socialist movement in the early 1900s it has grown into a day to recognize and celebrate women across the globe. I would celebrate each and every woman, everywhere, with “bread for all, and roses too!”
Perhaps it’s because I come from a background of strong labor and union identification, I also think today is a time to take stock of far we still have to go.
Every year the U.N. chooses a theme for the day and in 2014 it’s “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”
We certainly have a ways to go with that. Even into the 21st century we in the United States have not been able to pass the Equal Rights Amendment that was first proposed in 1923. And lest we think we’re talking something so complicated that it requires advanced degrees to understand, here is the actual text: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” That’s not very complicated is it?
Here are some global facts about women, gathered directly from the DoSomething.Org website:
- Women account for 70 percent of the population living in absolute poverty (on less than $1.00 a day).
- Women make up 80 percent of all refugees and displaced people. Instruments of genocide such as sexual violence and rape are often directed at women and girls.
- Every 90 seconds, one woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. Most of these deaths are preventable, but due to gender-based discrimination many women are not given the proper education or care they need.
- Women are largely excluded from formal peace processes. Only 1 in 13 participants of peace negotiations since 1992 were women. Women make up more than 50 percent of the global population, but fill less than 20 percent of all parliamentary seats.
- The majority of persons smuggled illegally across country borders are women. Many of them are kidnapped or sold by their own families into the sex industry.
But despite these things, and so much more, women carry on, women find ways to thrive, women find ways to shine and lead and hold up half of the world. Yay to every woman on this planet. And may we all find ways to make this a better place for each and every one of us.
I love poetry and when I thought today about the joy and expansiveness and brilliant futures I would wish for all the young girls in the world moving off to make their own marks, I thought of this poem by Linda Pastan entitled To a Daughter Leaving Home:
“When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
for your life, screaming
the hair flapping
behind you like a
To all the women in this world, and to all the girls who will become women before we know it, I celebrate you and offer you a virtual rose.
So tell me, is today a day you celebrate? Is there a particular woman who inspires you? A poem that captures what this day means for you? Do tell – you know I love to hear.