- Sam Cook is the director of the PeaceWomen Project – a project of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – the world’s oldest women’s peace organization founded in 1915 in the Hague. WILPF is an international non-governmental organization with national sections in 35 countries, covering all continents. Its international secretariat is based in Geneva with a New York United Nations office. The opinions expressed are her own. -
With the global financial crisis seemingly in every headline and a looming economic meltdown foremost on everyone's minds, the observance of International Women's Day on March 8 may not seem of immediate relevance. But it is.
Clara Zetkin, who is credited with first putting forward the idea of an international women's day in 1910, would likely have a lot to say about where we are today. She and other committed socialists of the women's and the peace movements in the U.S. and Europe whose work inspired this Women's Day would probably not be entirely surprised at what the dominant economic and political power ideologies of the last century have delivered.
Of course International Women's Day has grown beyond its working class roots in the early 1900's. Alongside the women's movement, we see now that global corporations and governments actively claim support of the day and its celebrations. The official website of International Women's Day claims this fact as a positive achievement. But, as someone who considers herself part of the peace and women's movements, this causes me no small measure of discomfort and adds to my mixed emotions about the day.
It is not that I don't appreciate the power and significance of an international day of observance of work for women's empowerment and gender equality. It is not that I think we have no need of attention to these issues. It is not that I feel that all the important achievements are the ones behind us - as the bumper sticker pinned above my desk reads, "I'll be a post-feminist in post-patriarchy." No, I believe that International Women's Day is an important reminder of the work that still needs to be done and it is certainly a powerful moment of solidarity across time and space.