Every Day is a Day of Resistance for Women
For years, International Women’s Day has seen a mix of protest and celebration as women gather across countries and continents to mark the global struggle for women’s rights and gender equality.
Each year, the 8th of March offers an opportunity to reflect on progress, renew our commitment and energy for the struggles ahead, and celebrate the crucial leadership and strength of those sisters who are at the coal face fighting for their rights, and the rights of those around them.
This year, to mark the theme for International Women’s Day, “Women in the Changing World of Work”, War on Want’s partner SACOM is leading protests outside UNIQLO’s stores in Hong Kong, to demand that UNIQLO take responsibility for the 4,000 workers, mostly women, in their supply chains.
This last year has seen momentous political changes that continue to reverberate, especially for those focused on social justice and striving for positive change. The vote to leave the European Union paved the way for the UK’s second female Prime Minister, an historic moment for statistics on women political leaders, but in no way heralding any optimism at all for women’s rights.
As Home Secretary, Theresa May’s treatment of women refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom have suffered torture including rape, remains cause for concern. And despite her commitment to tackle violence against women, her tenure saw crucial specialist frontline domestic and sexual violence services face funding crises and closure across the country.
May’s courting of the new US President Donal d Trump indicates how far down women’s rights are on the list of current priorities, a President who made it abundantly clear throughout his Presidential Election Campaign, that a vote for him would be a vote for openly regressive policies that would roll back women’s rights.
Making good on his promises, one of his first actions in office was to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, a Bush era policy that places a ban on any USAID funding going towards projects or organisations that promote family planning, information, education and access to abortion services. If anything, we learn from this last year that the struggle is only going to get harder.
Globally, women continue to make up roughly three quarters of the worlds’ poor, despite often performing the duties of both breadwinner, head of household, and carer, women earn a tenth of global income. Whether on farms, plantations or in factories, women are more likely to suffer from poverty wages, and are disproportionately affected by precarious employment contracts, discriminatory and exploitative work practices and abuse in the work place.
War on Want believes that the fight for women’s rights is a vital part of the war on global poverty. In the world’s poorest countries, our partners are challenging the structures and institutions that have driven women into poverty. Led by factory workers, small farmers and political activists, the women’s rights movement is waging a global struggle against inequality. We are proud to stand with our partners in:
Codemuh (the Honduran Women's Collective in Spanish), is a feminist, women-led grassroots organisation that has been fighting for women workers’ rights and empowerment for over 20 years. Codemuh is run by women and seeks the change in society that allows them to realise their potential, free from exclusion and discrimination. Through training, women are equipped with the skills and self-esteem to become labour rights promoters, reaching out to workers on factory floors and in their local communities. Codemuh also provides legal and medical advice to workers suffering occupational disease and empowers them to speak out and challenge the abuse of labour rights by factory owners and the complicity of the government.
The Housing Assembly is a grassroots social movement based in Cape Town and led by a majority women leadership. The number of households living in informal settlements has more than doubled since 2004. In the settlement of Siqalo, just nine taps found on the fringes of the settlement serve 6,000 families, while in Vygieskraal, sanitation services are nothing more than a string of portable toilets – one for every 40 people. Women and girls bear the brunt of the physical hardships and emotional strain of living with this housing crisis. Living sometimes ten to a room, the lack of privacy and access to toilets is a source of much anxiety. The Housing Assembly, through door-to-door organising and community speak-out sessions, encourages people to talk about the mental and emotional strain of living in informal housing. They work tirelessly to organise people living in shacks, informal settlements and social housing to campaign for their rights to decent shelter.
Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU) Most of Sri Lanka’s garment factories are located within the country’s free trade zones, where security is tight and keeps workers insulated from the influence of trade unions, where they might learn about their rights enshrined in national and international law. War on Want partner, the Free Trade Zones & General Services Employees Union (FTZ&GSEU), fights for workers’ rights - the majority of whom are young women - and takes individual cases to court. The ongoing work of FTZ&GSEU has been vital in raising awareness of workers’ rights. Thanks to training, garment workers are now refusing to accept unsafe working conditions or abuse by their bosses: together they are fighting back. Sri Lanka is a signatory to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions which require all workers to have the right to organise unions in their workplaces. Yet despite the rhetoric from local and foreign clothing brands on their commitment to workers’ rights, the stark reality for women garment workers is one of long hours, poverty pay and scant regard for safety.
Since the beginning of the occupation 50 years ago in 1967, over 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested and detained by Israeli occupation forces. In 2017, Palestinian women and girls are routinely arrested from the streets, Israeli military checkpoints, and during violent night raids on their homes during military incursions accompanied with the presence of Israeli soldiers, intelligence officers, and police dogs, during which destruction of household items and property damage takes place. They are blindfolded and their hands are tied, and they are forcibly taken to a military jeep.
Addameer is campaigning for the immediate release of female prisoners and an end to their ill treatment in detention
Once a year we celebrate International Women’s Day but for millions of women around the world every day is a day of resistance.