Why March 8 and why is does this important issue warrant a dedicated service? Here is a summary of why IWD is important in our professional, public, political and personal lives.
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Professional: Celebrate March 8 International Women’s Day (IWD).
As suffragettes fought to obtain the vote, workplace equality was a related issue. “Bread and Roses”, representing better wages and a better life mobilized many around the world. The NYC Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in 1911 and the 1917 strike by Russian women symbolized the larger struggles. In 1973,Quebec women began organizing their own events. In 1977, a cross-section of groups organized a coalition protest in Toronto. The United Nations ‘International Women’s Year (1975)’ motivated many; since then the concept has spread globally.
After 2007, IWD gained considerable momentum due to greater media attention, diverse events, social networking and corporate support. IWD is now celebrated in almost every country with many world leaders making official statements of support. In 2013, The UK listed 453 related events; USA- 259; Australia -188; Canada -161; India -97, plus others) Thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. See Wikipedia for an interesting list. Some examples include: Italy and Russia (gifts of yellow mimosa flowers) Portugal (women only dinners); Poland (large public marches); Taiwan (annual survey of women’s waist sizes); Great Britain (OxFam sponsors a Get Together campaign)
IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. In some countries IWD is equivalent to Mother’s Day.
Since 2000 there has been significant changes and attitudinal shifts about women’s equality and emancipation. “Many from a younger generation feel that ‘all the battles have been won for women’ while many feminists from the 1970’s know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. … The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.” (internationalwomensday.com) 70% of those who live in poverty are women. “ However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.”
Public: Name an achiever
Canadians rarely celebrate achievers! Our role models tend to be drawn for other countries and other faiths. However, here are a few Unitarian examples that all of us should honour: Emily Stowe; Margret Benedictsson; Lois Hole; Nancy Knight; Alice Munro. If you don’t know about these contributions, obtain a copy of “Concise Portraits of Canadian Unitarian and Universalist Women” (2006) published by the Uppity Women’s Group in Halifax or “Invisible Influences” launched 2011 (www.canuuwomenhistory.ca) by Jean Pfleiderer, Heather Fraser Fawcett and Kathy Sage.
Political: Take action
This article was written Oct. 11 on International Day of the Girl. Check out this Canadian site and take the short survey: www.becauseiamagirl.ca. However, Malala Yousafzai didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize today. Almost a century ago, Nellie McClung stated (1917): “The country is yours, ladies. Parliament has enfranchised you, but it cannot emancipate you, for that is done by your own process of thought. Politics is simply a public affair: yours and mine and everyone’s.” In Canada women might be enfranchised but many of us are not yet emancipated thinkers.
Personal: Do some soul work.
Our faith community involves many wonderful women ministers; we have several types of related curricula, especially the recently revised Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. Our members include many secular women leaders. At the Vancouver Island Women’s Retreat (2013) attendees were asked to share a meaningful spiritual practice. It was a simple and profound session.
It is time to share more ! Therefore, we hope that your congregation and fellowship will respond to this invitation. Further, we hope that you will share your service ideas with all of us by posting it to the cuuwa web page.