Women's Day 2001
Circle of Solidarity - Working Women's Struggle
Journey of Solidarity: Reclaiming the Memories of IWD
Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by women's groups
around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United
Nations and is designated in many countries as a national
holiday. When women on all continents, often divided by national
boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic
and political differences, come together to celebrate their
Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at
least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace
Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as
makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle
of women to participate
in society on an equal footing with men. In ancient
Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in
to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian
women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" marched
on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.
of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn of
the century, which in the industrialized world was a period
of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and
radical ideologies. Following is a brief chronology of the
most important events:
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first
National Woman's Day was observed across the United States on 28 February.
Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through
The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women's
Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women's rights
and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal
was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women
from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the
Finnish parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
As a result of the decision taken at Copenhagen the previous year, International
Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark,
Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended
rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office,
they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and to an end
to discrimination on the job.
a week later, on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in New
York City took the lives of more than 140 working girls,
most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event had
a significant impact on labour legislation in the United
States, and the working conditions leading up to the disaster
were invoked during subsequent observances of International
As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I, Russian
women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday
in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following
year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity
with their sisters.
With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian
women again chose the last Sunday in February to strike
for "bread and peace".
opposed the timing of the strike, but the women went
on anyway. The rest is history.
At the same time as these events were happening overseas, in Australia the
fight for women's rights was also happening here. Just prior to Federation,
a number of colonies had given women the vote and this was granted soon after
Federation - except for Indigenous women, that is. Women like Emma Millar
in Queensland took a lead in securing better working conditions for women.
Equal pay was a long way off but the origins of this struggle began at this
time. Over the decades women continued to work for their rights and social
Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global
dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing
international women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global
United Nations women's conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying
point for coordinated efforts to demand women's rights and participation
in the political and economic process. Increasingly, International Women's
Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate
acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary
role in the history of women's rights.
from IWD Story, United Nations, NY - Development and
Human Rights Section)
Shall Not Give Up
Reflection on Work - Catholic Social Teaching
insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions,
arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution,
the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful
working conditions, where people are treated as mere tools
for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons;
all these things and others of their like are infamies
indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm
to those who practise them than those who suffer from the
The Church in the Modern World
it our duty to reaffirm that the remuneration of work is
not something that can be left to the laws of the marketplace;
nor should it be a decision left to the will of the more
powerful. It must be determined in accordance with justice
and equity; which means that workers must be paid a wage
which allows them to live a truly human life and to fulfill
their family obligations in a worthy manner.
Mother and Teacher
above all we must remember the priority of labor over capital:
labor is the cause of production; capital, or the means
of production, is its mere instrument or tool.
On Human Work
Circle of Solidarity
the pioneering women who struggled to achieve some semblance
of political and socio-economic equality, we now call to
mind women of today who still struggle for justice and equality.
we call them to mind and bring them, in spirit, into this
circle. As we hear their stories we commit ourselves to solidarity
with them in their struggle.
women workers in the Nike factory
women who are trafficked and sold for their labour and
American women illegally in the US and working cheaply
as domestic maids
outworkers in Australia
women wanting their lost wages
women sexually harassed in their workplace
women retrenched from jobs they have held for years
the Women's Stories below)
call these women one by one into this circle of solidarity,
we make this promise:
promise to stand with you in solidarity
and to support you in whatever way we can
in your struggle for justice and equality.
Speaker: Cath Rafferty from the Working Women's Service
Introduction by Coralie Kingston
am one of around 70,000 workers, men and women, who work
in a Nike factory in Thailand. I work from 10 to 12 hours
on any one day and in hazardous conditions. I earn $4.00
per day. Some workers earn even less than that. I produce
the sports shoes that famous sports people like Cathy Freeman
and Tiger Woods wear when they compete. In contrast to my
$4.00 per day, Tiger Woods earns $55,000 per day from endorsements
alone. I would have to work for 38 years to earn what Tiger
earns in one day from this company. I have to work to provide
for my daughter but I hardly see her as I work a long way
from my home and I cannot afford to travel. My daughter is
cared for by my parents.
ask for a just wage and for decent working conditions so
that I can afford an adequate standard of living and see
my daughter each day.
support me in my struggle for justice.
am one of the Filipino women
who has been recruited to travel to various destinations
to work in what I thought
was the ‘tourism'
industry. In fact, I found
that I was to become a prostitute in
Singapore. I am from a very poor family
a rural area
in The Philippines and I
have a child that I have to support.
I had expected
to get a decent job and earn
than I could at home but
I am now trapped in the sex industry
am also in trouble with immigration
I do not have the proper
permits to work abroad. I fear for my
this work and I fear for my future.
I am one of 70,000
women, mostly from South-East Asia, who are trafficked in
this way each year.
I ask to be treated
with dignity and to be able to return to my home and family.
Your support in
stopping the trafficking of women and children is needed
more than ever.
a Mexican woman aged 25. I managed to get from Mexico into the
United States as an illegal immigrant. I was desperate
escape poverty and secure a future for my family and myself.
I thought that the US would give me a start. I now work as
maid in the home of a white American family. I work for low wages
but I cannot speak up for myself as I
would risk being turned over to the immigration authorities.
I would go home
if I knew that I had a job to return to and some economic
security. That is not possible as Mexico is a poor country,
caught in the web of global debt and the IMF's rules and
regulations. Even if I had a job there I would be poorly
I only ask that
I have work and can work with dignity in my own country and
have access to basic services like health and housing.
The first world
countries to which Mexico is indebted do not seem to care
about how their structural adjustment polices impact on people
like me. Like millions I am an economic refugee with little
hope for the future.
am a migrant outworker in Australia. I work at home sewing
garments for designer label companies. I am not paid very
much and I am surprised when I see the clothes I sew on sale
in retail outlets for prices hundreds of percent higher than
the wage I am paid to make the garments.
I have been pleased
at the support from the FairWear Campaign - from people
in the Churches, trade unions and women's groups who have
lobbied to introduce laws to protect outworkers. This demonstrates
the power of solidarity and social action. However, there
is still a long way to go still before outworkers have secure
My hope is that FairWear continues
to support women like me and provides a voice for us who
are voiceless and isolated in the clothing industry.
am a Queensland Murri woman. I was born at Cherbourg and
was raised there. As a teenager I was sent out to cattle
stations in the far west to do domestic work. I never saw
my full wages. Mostly, they were taken by the State Government
and kept in a fund which they named the Aboriginal Welfare
Fund. During the Depression in the 1930s, a large share
of Aboriginal wages were used for the public hospitals. At
the time my wages were taken, I was also denied award wages.
So, my pay was far less that what non-Indigenous people received.
I have been advocating
for my wages for nearly ten years now. Many Aboriginal people
died before they got their wages back. I am determined that
my people get justice in their lifetime.
I appreciate the
support that has been given to me by many non-Indigenous
people in this struggle.
I ask that you be
vigilant in ensuring that wage justice is guaranteed for
Indigenous people across Australia.
am a young twenty year old woman. I recently got my first
full-time job in a bakery. I was so happy at first but after
a month the male manager began to make suggestive comments
to me. At first I ignored it and hoped it would go away but
he continued and one day when I was the only one in the shop,
he propositioned me. He said that he would sack me if I did
I walked out.
I know that many
women like me are harassed and bullied in the workplace and
have nowhere to go. It is so unfair. The bullies get away
with it in so many cases.
We need laws to
protect women in the workplace. In my case I had nowhere
to go as I was advised when I began work there not to join
like the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission are
under threat from hostile governments, it is important that
ordinary people speak out in support because I know now that
I could have taken my case to this organisation under the
sex discrimination laws.
am a fifty-five year old woman and I have worked in a Church-based
organisation for over twenty years. Last year I was retrenched
without any warning. I was hurt and angry. After two decades
of loyal service I was just cast aside and my loyalty hardly
I am single and
have to fend for myself. I have some superannuation but not
enough to support myself adequately. I am looking for work
but it is difficult at my age. I have lost my self-esteem
and I am afraid for the future. I am on unemployment benefits.
I feel isolated