International Women’s Day
By Cheryl Thomas, CEO
On March 8, millions of people around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. Begun as part of a strategy to achieve women’s suffrage and equal rights more than a hundred years ago, the day is rooted in women’s dedication to overcoming their oppression. Activists around the world organize celebrations and marches. We embrace it as a day to acknowledge our achievements and the power of our global sisterhood.
Today, cross border alliances are as important as ever. Women in Turkey who are demanding accountability for sexual assault state this eloquently, “We take strength from women who say #MeToo all over the world as well as from our own struggle and revolt.”
Mobilization of the sisterhood and our allies brings results. In the United States a historic number of women took their seats in Congress this year. As a visual symbol of their rising influence and solidarity, they dressed in white and sat together at the State of the Union address. A record number of women are running for president.
In Minnesota, because of result of women demanding change, our legislature considers new bills with landmark changes to sexual assault and sexual harassment laws. This progress is the direct result of the work of coalitions, including the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Gender Justice, and the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. Effort to change the law was ignited by extraordinary allies in the press. The Star Tribune’s series, Denied Justice, was an uncompromising exploration of the deep failures of our legal system’s response to sexual violence.
As women knew in 1911, sisterhood is essential to protecting women’s human rights when they are inevitably attacked and dismissed. Just as with the #MeToo movement in the U.S., our global allies forge bonds by sharing remarkably similar experiences of sexual and domestic violence and harassment. With every personal story, the movement is strengthened and alliances grow. Others, in support of survivors, step up and drive change in their circles of influence. At Global Rights for Women, we see this phenomenon every day. Police, prosecutors, and judges in other countries emerge as allies and leaders when they seek the expertise of their more experienced colleagues, and dedicate themselves to tested reforms that will keep women safer, and hold offenders accountable.
Allies in the human rights movement recognize the important truth that reforms are not effective or sustainable unless they reflect the experience of the oppressed. It is by listening that we learn the common experience of oppression, that survivors and leaders connect, and that real and lasting change occurs. In our work at Global Rights for Women we launch every new project with a forum dedicated to listening to those most affected by existing laws, policies and practices. This shared experience guides our work and is at the core of our bond.
International Women’s Day is vibrant and compelling in 2019. Celebrate it, listen to the stories of the oppressed, and welcome it as a motivator to end the global suffering of women and girls.
Here are some steps you can take to address current issues:
- Follow the bills intended to and improve our violence against women laws in Minnesota. You can do this through Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women and the Minnesota Coalition for Sexual Assault. Let your representatives know that you support these bills.
- Support the ERA in Minnesota.
- Develop a deep understanding of the causes of migration at our southern border – including utter impunity for femicide and violence against women and girls throughout Latin America. Support U.S. interventions that address these root causes of migration
- Learn about the increasing risks women’s human rights defenders face around the world.
- Tell Congress to re-authorize our federal Violence against Women Act.
- Tell Congress to pass the International Violence against Women Act.
And THANK YOU for your support of Global Rights for Women!
Chief Executive Officer
Global Rights for Women