As women throughout the world gather to observe International Women's Day on this, the 100th anniversary of the New York City Bread and Roses March, they do so in the face of a seemingly intractable culture of impunity that enables increasingly horrendous acts of violence against women.
In Kenya, women are being gang-raped in refugee camps. In Afghanistan, young girls are forced into marriage. In Mexico and Guatemala women continue to disappear, the victims of brutal rapes and murder. In Iraq, women are being indiscriminately killed in the name of male honor. In the U.S. military, women are more likely to be assaulted by their fellow soldiers than by any enemy. The list, truly, is endless.
While International Women's Day is, and rightly should be, a day to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of women, a recent statement by the Gabriela Network is correct in pointing out that IWD is, and also must be, more than that:
"We need to return our Day and our Month to their rightful and correct significance in both national and international arenas. Though March was meant to be a celebration of women's achievements, International Women's Day and International Women's Month were also meant to be the time when the women's voice regarding national and international events was meant to be the loudest. State violence has been foremost in women's minds, as this has been the most destructive of life and the conditions for the well-being, not only of womankind, but of the entire human species.
March 8th has been co-opted and turned into a so-called commemoration of women's achievements, as though there were no more need for further achievements. It is time to return March 8th to its historic role as the day women challenge government decisions and policies inimical to peace, justice and the preservation of the human species. It is time for March 8th to be known as the day when women unite and march against state policies dangerous to the health and safety of the nation."
This must be a day when we name and acknowledge the atrocities that are daily perpetrated against women throughout the world. It must be a day to honor our strength and wisdom and renew our commitment to ending these assaults on our lives.
On International Women's Day we must indeed insist on being, as Alice Walker so eloquently put it, the ones we have been waiting for. International Women's Day is a time to stand in the place that we are, and in that place to stand with and for the women of the world.
As you observe International Women's Day, please hold a special place in your hear for women who will be gathering despite the grave danger of doing so, particularly the women in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan who are planning a march and the brave women celebrating in Iraq who tell us, "There will be no civil society without liberated women."
With strength, with wisdom, with solidarity.
Happy International Women's Day.