MoveUP Celebrates International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017

The first International Women’s Day started with one woman and an idea, and unions were there from the beginning.  In 1910 Clara Zetkin attended the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen and proposed a day to honour all women around the globe. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, progressive political parties, working women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament – greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and International Women’s Day was the result.

The first International Women’s Day was observed on the following year on March 19, 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. More than one million women and men showed their support by participating in public events for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.

1911 was also the year of the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women. The following year textile workers in Massachusetts, who were mostly women, took action in what became known as the Bread and Roses’ strike. Bread symbolized fair wages and roses stood for dignity.

Flash forward through the great depression and the Second World War. The women’s and civil rights movements in the West made huge strides towards equality in the 1960s and 70s.  

But we haven’t achieved equality yet. Today, women earn about 72 per cent of what men earn for similar work – and that number is going in the wrong direction. In 2009, the number was 74 per cent. Women face higher rates of physical and sexual violence than do men, which intensifies for women of colour. In Canada, Indigenous women are especially at peril.    

However, we can, and are continuing to make change. MoveUP supports initiatives like the United Way’s Tampon Tuesday, which helps low-income women address basic care needs. We support the Canadian Labour Congress’ campaign which seeks child care support, pay equity legislation and domestic violence leave.  And we can vote for governments whose policies support women’s advancement and equality.

We also encourage all women to consider running for office in your union, city, province or country.  MoveUP executive council elections are now in progress and soon we will be facing a provincial election.  Being at the table to have the discussions and be part of the decision making process is exactly was Clara Zetkin did when she had the idea for International Women’s Day. 

International Women’s Day is about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action. Celebrate but also thank those who support women’s issues and help to make it a better tomorrow for everyone.

On behalf of the MoveUP Women’s Committee, 

Susan Orr & Rysa Kronebusch, Committee Co-Chairs