We salute the history, struggles and achievements of women worldwide that will be celebrated on March 8, International Women’s Day. It’s no surprise that this holiday began in the labor movement. In 1910, at an international conference of socialist women in Copenhagen, Denmark, German socialist and women’s equality champion Clara Zetkin proposed an international day to mark the march of 15,000 women garment workers in New York two years earlier, in which they demanded better working conditions and pay, shorter hours, an end to child labor, voting rights and a needle trades union. That struggle adopted the slogan “Bread and Roses,” which later inspired the song that became one of the anthems of the women’s movement, bread symbolizing economic security and roses meaning a better life.
Zetkin’s proposal was unanimously adopted. Today March 8 has become an international celebration of women’s struggles for equality, civil and labor rights, social justice and peace.
Despite many gains, women are still paid less than men for the same or comparable work, and continue to suffer discrimination in education, health and other social measures. According to the AFL-CIO women make up 39 percent of the world’s workforce, yet account for 70 percent of the world’s population in poverty. Women continue to be victimized by gender-based violence.
Working women face particular threats, the AFL-CIO notes. Most women throughout the world are relegated to low-skilled, low-wage jobs, where the work is often dangerous. They also face discrimination, sexual harassment and physical abuse from employers.
Karl Marx noted that social progress could be measured by the social position of the female worker. The fight for workers anywhere is the fight for women everywhere. That fight must begin with core rights such as the right to organize and bargain collectively and to work free from discrimination.
Women are more and more taking their future into their own hands, joining unions and women’s groups that advocate for their rights. The AFL-CIO reports that two of three new union members are women.
Let’s keep this going. While we celebrate women’s achievements, there’s more to be done. Let’s make sure that the future for every woman and girl is bright. And let’s make every day International Women’s Day.