International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8 March and it was a privilege and inspiration to join my colleagues and many other activists at IWD events including Sydney’s march on 9 March 2019.
In celebrating our capacity to be more powerful together, the 2019 themes in Australia focused on prevention of violence against women, the need to achieve gender equity and the importance of fair and effective workplace laws.
In celebrating IWD Australian women and supporters joined with extraordinary worldwide action across the globe. Equal pay and rights for women sparked a protest in Spain where it was reported that an estimated six million took part in a two hour walkout demanding equal rights at work.
Domestic violence and sexual attacks were IWD themes in many countries. Flags were flown at half mast on government buildings in Portugal where a day of mourning was observed for women killed by domestic violence.
Across Latin America the movement to stop gender violence brought many to the streets. Video coverage shows hundreds of thousands of protestors on the streets in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. India’s capital, New Delhi, and the Indonesian capital, Jakarta were also cities reported to have marches demanding an end to domestic violence, sexual attacks and job discrimination.
In the United States a strong women’s movement is fighting for a new look Congress that will reflect and support the rights of America’s diverse population. Women are active in demanding and working for genuine equality and an end to the social divide.
Here in Australia the union movement is engaged with the Change the Rules campaign including ‘change the rules for working women’. The Australian Human Rights Commission held a National Inquiry into Workplace Sexual Harassment during 2018. The IEU supported the inquiry and will continue to support national action to ensure workplaces are free from sexual harassment.
Change the Rules seeks a number of legal reforms to ensure equity and fairness in the workplace including prevention of wage theft, restoration of penalty rates and access to reasonable pay increases. The union movement also seeks fairer superannuation outcomes for women post retirement.
The IEU’s Equal Remuneration and Work Values case will be heard in the Fair Work Commission between 10 June and 4 July this year. This has been a long struggle and we are hopeful we can achieve fairer wages for our teachers working in the early childhood sector.
The original celebration of the women’s rights movement which was held in New York on 28 February 1909 engendered a movement for equal rights and women’s suffrage in countries across the world including Denmark, Austria, Germany and Russia.
The United Nations held International Women’s Year in 1975 and established 8 March as the day that evolved into International Women’s Day. The date is widely celebrated and is now an official holiday in countries such as Afghanistan, China and Vietnam.
While there have been significant achievements over the past century, there is still much to fight for at the international, national and state levels and within our own Union campaigns.