Born from the European and North American Labour movements at the turn of the 20th century, ‘International Women’s Day’ (IWD) today (Tuesday, March 8) celebrates the cultural, political and socio-economic achievements of all women, worldwide.
The United Nations (UN) uses this day to rally for women’s rights, and to reflect on global progress achieved to date in pursuit of female equality, peace, and development.
The women’s rights movement reserves this day to call for gender equality, reproductive rights, and a stop to violence and abuse against women.
Essentially, this important day arms every woman worldwide, regardless off their class, religion or ethnicity, with an opportunity to join hands, to mobilise for meaningful change.
Gaining respect for women, and equal discourse to date, however, has historically, proven hard fought.
While Australian women secured the right to vote, and to run for Parliament in 1894 – years ahead of millions of their international sisters – further progress was relatively slow.
Although originally celebrated in the 1930s in Australia, ‘Women’s Day’, it took another four decades for the event to become mainstream.
In 1972, feminists formed the NSW Branch of the Women’s Electoral Lobby to address key issues then confronting women – equal pay, equal employment opportunity, maternity leave, access to free contraceptive services, abortion, and free 24-hour childcare. The same year, the ABC launched their first feminist program, ‘Coming Out (Ready or Not)’ – a popular program that was broadcast for the ensuing 23 years.
It wasn’t until 1975 however, during the ‘United Nations International Year of Women’, that the UN declared ‘IWD’ in recognition of all women, and their invaluable contribution to strengthening international peace, and security. To mark this historic occasion 5,000 women, men and children took to Sydney’s city streets, armed with placards, brooms and balloons, to collectively rally for female equality.
Forty-four years later, The Hon. Penny Sharpe, MLC managed to successfully decriminalise abortion in NSW, by introducing the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 into NSW Parliament.
“Making change is hard, but it is worth every frustration,” pronounced the battle-hardy MP.
“To know that we have made the lives of women, girls and other pregnant people that little bit easier – against the wishes of those who seek to control our bodies – is very satisfying.”
As IWD turns ‘50’ today, we have good reason to celebrate the significant achievements of our trailblazing mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.
But as the sisterhood knows, there is still so much to be done.