by Tina Gianoulis -
Special to the SGN
International Women's Day March and Rally
Powell Barnett Park
The year 2010 marks at least two important anniversaries in the modern struggle for women's rights: the 100th official year of International Women's Day and the 10th anniversary of the World March of Women 2000. While both of these landmarks offer something to celebrate in terms of women working together to improve the conditions of their lives, they also both serve as reminders of the continuing and often repetitive work that remains to be done in the fight for equality and justice.
The early 1900s were a period of political and economic turmoil. Technological advances were transforming society on every level, and not always to the advantage of the average worker. Embattled unions struggled to combat threats to working people from a rapidly industrializing economy and an uncaring ruling class. Women fought for the most basic political rights and control over their own reproductive systems - even for the right to be considered a person under the law.
International Women's Day was born out of the picket lines of striking garment workers and the unrelenting vigils of suffragists demanding the vote (not won until 1920). Activists staged Women's Day demonstrations in U.S. cities in 1908 and 1909, and in 1910, the International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen, Denmark, declared March 8 an annual International Women's Day. Feminists continue to mark the day with demonstrations and other events around the world.
It was on International Women's Day in 2000 that the World March of Women launched their global response to the increasing poverty and the marginalization of women in almost every nation. Initiated by the Federation des Femmes in Quebec, the World March of Women coordinated demonstrations in dozens of countries, demanding an end to poverty and violence against women. These worldwide actions culminated in an international march in New York City where more than 8,000 women from around the world presented their demands to the United Nations.
The World March of Women has renewed their call to action in 2010, asking women everywhere to raise their voices in opposition to poverty, violence against women and children, and war and militarization. From March to October, WMW events will span the globe, leading up to an international march in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
To many of us, the issues that confronted society on that first International Women's Day in 1910 sound frighteningly familiar. A century later, the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, as a technology that once promised to free us from labor has only succeeded in freeing us from jobs. Labor unions are once again under attack, women still struggle for equality and control over their bodies, and endless war and a heavily militarized society are increasingly accepted as inevitable.
In this precarious climate, two paths of response emerge: despair or fight back. And in keeping with a long Seattle tradition of radicalism and resistance, local activists have chosen to fight back. Joining the call of the World March of Women for the "globalization of solidarity" and joining a century of women marching for human rights and justice, a broad coalition of women from many different Seattle communities has worked together to plan two important events for International Women's Day, a march and rally on March 6, and a community celebration on March 8.
Organizers invite all who want to join in to gather at noon on Saturday, March 6 at Powell Barnett Park (Martin Luther King Way and Alder St.) and proceed down Jackson St. to a rally in Pioneer Square's Occidental Park. On the way, they will stop at a number of sites that highlight Seattle's direct connection to the issues at the heart of the World March of Women's international protests.
A rally at Occidental Park will follow the march, featuring thought-provoking entertainment and dynamic local social activists speaking on issues such as reproductive justice, concerns of youth, immigrant rights, and the ways women can work together locally, nationally, and internationally. The march, rally, and celebration will be ASL interpreted, a bus will be provided for disabled transport along march route, POCAAN is wheelchair-accessible.
On Monday, March 8, the celebration will continue at a community gathering from 7 to 9 p.m. at POCAAN, 1609 19th Ave. near Madison St. In a relaxed atmosphere, with refreshments and entertainment by local performers, the program will honor the contributions of women who have worked on social justice issues here in Seattle. Donations will be collected to support women in Haiti.
Affiliated events are being planned by groups involved in planning the march, rally, and celebration:
On March 4, the Asian and Pacific Islander Women and Family Safety Center held its annual candlelight vigil for victims of domestic violence. The vigil took place at the King County Courthouse at 3rd and Yesler, site of the murders of Susan Blackwell, Phoebe Dizon, and Veronica Laurete in a 1995 domestic violence crime.
Following the march and rally on March 6, Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA) will host a special International Women's Day production of its monthly open mic and talent showcase "Ladies First," beginning at 8 p.m. at Hidmo Eritrean Cuisine and Community Empowerment Project at 2000 S. Jackson St.
Organizers hope that activists looking for energy and inspiration will attend many of these events to gain a more rounded picture of the exciting work being done throughout our Seattle communities. Visit "Seattle International Women's Day 2010" on Facebook for more information.
To those who say, "Why march?" the international organizers of the World March of Women say this: "We will march to demonstrate our perseverance and our strength as collectively organized women with diverse experiences, political cultures and ethnic backgrounds, but with a common identity and goal: The desire to overthrow the current, unjust world order that provokes violence and poverty, and to construct the world we want based on peace, justice, equality, freedom and solidarity."
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