International Women’s Day (IDW) was never on my radar until I started at Bonnies. In my previous profession, as a teacher, we didn’t really celebrate or particularly talk about it. I regret that now, and see how important the celebration of this day can be for sparking conversation and learning. In the lead up to this years’ IWD, the Bonnie’s team and I have been sharing articles, stories and ideas about what it means to be a woman in the 21stcentury.
In the last 48hrs I’ve read two articles written 133 years apart. Comparing the climate around the first International Women’s Day to now.
The first IWD
On the 8thof March 1908, 15,000 female garment workers marched through the streets of New York to protest untenable working conditions, dangerous work environments and child labour. This is considered to be the first International Women’s Day march, and is known as an important moment in the history for women’s liberation. Although only a few years after the first ever IWD March, 146 women were locked in a building, because the supervisors sought to prevent unauthorised bathroom breaks. A fire broke out, and all of the women died.
100 years later
Some 100 years later in 2013, the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1134 garment workers and injuring 2500 others. The similarities between these two cases are horrific and perplexing. And similar stories still abound.
For example, despite being ranked the worlds most transparent brand in 2020 clothing giant H&M has continuously failed to address cases of gendered based violence. 20 year Jeyasre Kathiravel was raped and murdered by her supervisor in an H&M factory in India. Despite the supervisors confessions, H&M has refused to terminate operations with the supplier. Not long after this horrific incident, 50 men forced themselves into Jeyasre family home and demanded that they accept a check for around $7000 USD and sign away any accountability, for Jaysare’s death.
So it seems we are still fighting the same fight.
The anniversary of International Women’s Day couldn’t arrive at a more apt time. It has been a traumatising few weeks, as we learn and dive deeper into the unravelling of stories of abuse and sexual assault in Parliament House.
This International Women’s Day, we are reminded of all the work we have done and all the work there is still left to do.
The momentum to stop injustices against women must continue beyond International Women’s Day.
How about we agree to make every day International Women’s Day?!
Written with Ciara, Senior DVRE worker