Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Herstory of International Women's Day, by Dora Byamukama

photograph of Dora Byamukama is from here
The content of this post is from New Vision (Uganda), *here*.

What is Women's Day about?
Wednesday, 9th March, 2011

By Dora Byamukama

HAVE you ever wondered why March 8 is celebrated as the International Women's Day? We need to go back into history to find out how the International Women's Day came into practice.

It is reported that International Women's Day, originally called International Working Women's Day was originated by Clara Zetkin, a leader of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, who first proposed the idea of a women's day at the Second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910.

The conference was attended by over 100 women from 17 countries and included workers' unions, socialist political parties and working women's clubs. This conference 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. Zetkin's suggestion received unanimous approval and the first International Women's Day was celebrated in 1911.

The focus was on the rights of women workers and in 1908 about 15,000 women in various industries had marched on the streets of New York to press for shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights. They were baton-charged by Police who arrived on horseback. The ensuing struggle between women workers and the Police led to several women being injured and imprisoned for demanding their rights. This incident was one among others that had prompted Zetkin to demand a day that would remember the women's struggle, with a view towards continuing the resistance.

As a result of the decision taken at Copenhagen, International Women's Day was marked for the first time on March 19, 2011 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. Apart from 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.

With the passage of time, the meaning of the day was broadened to include political, economic and social rights for women. This year's International Women's Day marks 100 years since its inception. Reasons for its celebration currently vary and include:

  • A time to underscore the importance of women's rights and empowerment in all fields and a reminder that the agenda of women's rights must form the core of the agenda of all governments and nations;

  • Celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women;

  • Celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements.

  • Simply an occasion for men to express their love for women;

  • A time to take stock of the achievements of women in the political, economic and social spheres and to project on the next goals.

  • A celebration of womanhood- the privilege of being a woman.

    The Theme for the International Women's Day for 2011 is "Act Now: Promote Maternal Health". It is reported that every year, globally, more than half a million women die due to complications of pregnancy or child birth and malaria. According to the Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2006 about 6000 women annually die due to pregnancy related complications - this translates to about 16 women dying per day. This is a grave situation and the Government has already embarked on upscaling activities that address the issue of maternal mortality. The Government is doing this by implementing the provisions in the Constitution which provides that the state shall protect women and their rights, taking into account their unique status and natural maternal functions in society.

    The NRM Government has also initiated policies and supported enactment of laws that address maternal mortality, these include, creation of awareness and enforcement of the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, 2010; the Domestic Violence Act, 2010; the Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009; Community policing, establishment of a domestic violence unit in Police and provision of 60 working days maternity leave and provision for paternity leave, among others.

    Uganda's International Women's Day celebrations of March 8, 2011 etched amazing memories in my mind. A prayer that referred to women as "helpers" attracted murmurs and instant debate as to whether women are "helpers" of men or companions or partners.

    The Islamic faith prayer was led by a lady, who reminded all that failure to accord girls and women equal rights prohibit that person from entering paradise. Then there was a splendid parade by women from the army and police forces. All this was crowned by the granting of medals to female army officers for their heroic acts and gold medalist Inzikuru and launching of the African Women's Decade 2010-2020 by President Museveni.

    The struggle for women's rights is a daily activity. It is women's day on all the 365 days of the year. Success has, to some extent, been secured but more needs to be done. The struggle continues!

  • Dr. Vandana Shiva Held at Canadian Border, but She Will Speak in Calgary!

    photograph of Dr. Vandana Shiva is from here
    What follows is from Pacific Free Press. Please click on title to link back to the source website.
    Renowned Scientist, Vandana Shiva Held at Canadian Border

    written by Chris Cook 

    Renowned Scientist/Activist, Vandana Shiva Held at Canadian Border
    by C. L. Cook
    Vandana Shiva was scheduled to speak tonight in Calgary, Alberta, spiritual home of far right Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper. But, like other activists and writers trying to enter Canada lately, things didn't go smoothly for her.

    Shiva is also scheduled to receive tomorrow a University of Calgary's Consortium for Peace Studies award. (Please see below break for details).

    Swerve Calgary reports Shiva is being held tonight at the Canada/U.S. border due to "an issue with her visa.

    Vandana Shiva now joins a lengthening list of dissident writers, reporters, and activists harried by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

    In 2009, then British MP George Galloway was not allowed entry into Canada due to his alleged support for Palestinian groups listed by the CBSA as terrorist organizations. Galloway took the case to court, where Stephen Harper's government was rebuked.

    Last year, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! found herself cooling her heels at the border when Canadian agents refused to believe she was not going to Vancouver to report critically on the Olympic games. Goodman recounted the bizarre incident to the crowd awaiting her speaking engagement in the Olympic city.

    No such luck for Calgarians who had hoped to hear Shiva speak tonight.

    The CBSA is overseen by minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturism Jason Kenney, a controversial figure for callous remarks regarding refugees, and more recently embroiled in a fund raising scandal.

    [A date not kept: India’s famed environmental activist knows all about taking a stand. She’ll be in town on March 9 to discuss democracy, empowerment of women, development, social justice and the environment.  Vandana Shiva speaks Wednesday, March 9, 7 p.m. At Murray Fraser Hall, University of Calgary. $12 – $15.]

    [On March 10th, the University of Calgary’s Consortium for Peace Studies will award Dr. Vandana Shiva, a world-renowned environmental activist from New Dehli, The Calgary Peace Prize. The awards ceremony and banquet will be held at the Calgary Golf & Country Club. Tickets are available via the U of C’s secure Net Community: TICKETS]


    Upcoming Speakers & Events

    URGENT RELEASE to all attendees of “An Evening with Vandana Shiva” and to all Calgarians and the media  
    Dr Vandana Shiva event will proceed... The Show Will Go On!!  
    Calgary Community Rallies to support Consortium for Peace Studies event @ Mac Hall tonight... 1000 expected to attend  
    Dr. Vandana Shiva, respected environmentalist, activist, philosopher and author was scheduled to speak to a sold out audience of 1000 people at Mac Hall this evening.  Her visit to Calgary was prompted by the awarding of the 2011 Calgary Peace Prize, which was to be presented to her by Mayor Nenshi tomorrow evening.  
    With great misfortune Vandana has been unable to cross the U.S. border and enter into Canada as officials claim her Visa has expired.

    However we are working extremely hard with Immigration Canada to have her arrive in Calgary.

    THE SHOW WILL GO ON... Calgary Community Rallies to support Consortium Peace event
    A diverse line up of local eco/food/peace celebrities has volunteered to speak at the event. 
    Kris Vester, Paul Hughes, Wade Sirios, Chris Turner & Hugo Bonjean will each address the audience for 10 minutes, followed by a panel discussion. Numerous local agencies will also be participating and information booths will be set up so audience members can have their questions answered about local food justice & peace issues. We are also working with the Mayor Nenshi’s office to have him come and speak at the event.  
    The Consortium for Peace Studies at the University of Calgary had planned to honor Dr. Shiva for her commitment to social justice, empowerment of women in developing countries, her advocacy of human rights and her scientific analysis of environmental sustainability.
    Her talk was to address elements of the global food crisis and its relation to democracy, gender justice and the environment.  
    We are trying our best to bring Vandana Shiva over to Calgary by March 11, 2011. We will reschedule a public lecture with her and if you have bought a ticket to the event, you will get free entry to the lecture by her and the public event for tonite.  If you want a ticket refund, please contact the Consortium for Peace Studies after March 14th, 2011.

    Feminist Action Alert: Tell the New York Times to Apologize for Blaming an Eleven Year-Old Girl for Being Gang Raped by 20 Men and Boys

    Tony Cenicola/The New York Times. Photo of Bill Keller is from here

    Earl Wilson/The New York Times. Photo of Arthur S. Brisbane is from here
    photo of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. is from here
    Will these three particular powerful white men get it?

    What level of disregard and disrespect of the humanity of Black women and girls is tolerable in the U.S.?

    You decide:

    For the initial news about this, please see *this post* at What About Our Daughters. With many thanks to The Blogmother and also to C.W. for sending me the links.

    Source website:
    Tell the New York Times to Apologize for Blaming a Child for Her Gang Rape

    Overview Letter Targeting: Arthur S. Brisbane (Public Editor, The New York Times), Bill Keller (Executive Editor, The New York Times), and Arthur Sulzberger Jr (Publisher, The New York Times)

    Started by: Shelby Knox

    On March 8th the New York Times published a story by James C. McKinley Jr. titled "Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town." The assault it described was, indeed, heinous: an 11-year-old was gang raped in an abandoned trailer house by as many as 18 men, with suspects ranging in age from middle school students to a 27-year-old. The attack came to light because several of the suspects took cell phone video of the assault.

    Also appalling was the way in which New York Times reporter James C. McKinley reported the victim blaming sentiments of members of the Texas community in which the rape occurred as truth. McKinley insinuated the young woman had it coming, writing, "They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said."

    Mr. McKinley also gave ink to community members who are more concerned about the impact raping a child will have on the suspects than being raped will have on the young victim. Mr. McKinley quoted Sheila Harrison as saying, "“These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”

    1 in 4 American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. A culture that blames victims for being raped - for what they were wearing, where they were, and who they were with - rather than blaming the rapist is a culture that tacitly condones rape. A society that is more concerned with how being held accountable for rape will impact the perpetrator than for the well being of the victim is a society that doesn't take rape seriously.

    The New York Times contributed to this dangerous culture by publishing this article by Mr. McKinley without asking him to edit out his and community members' editorial victim blaming.

    Tell the New York Times to issue a published apology for their coverage of this incident and publish an editorial from a victim's rights expert on how victim blaming in the media contributes to the prevalence of sexual assault. No one ever deserves to be raped and no victim should ever be told it was their fault. New York Times, we expect better. We demand better.