International Women’s Day
8 March 2010
International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March and is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In Ireland and all around the world, women are celebrated in a wide variety of ways from art and film, through to discussion and debate. Although International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate women, it also highlights the continuing struggles both at home and in Africa in terms of achieving gender equality. On a positive note, it is refreshingly evident from the various activities surrounding International Women’s Day in Ireland, that there is a strong solidarity among Irish women and their international counterparts.
Many of the problems and issues that affect women worldwide often go unreported and are thus frequently ignored. Issues to affect women include the basic bread and butter issues, as well as issues such as human trafficking and violence against women (which of course also tie in with subsistence issues). To state a few worrying facts, two thirds of people living in poverty worldwide are women and girls. Although they are the producers of 60-80% of the world’s food, women suffer disproportionately from hunger. Violence also affects more women of reproductive age than malaria or cancer, and in sub Saharan Africa and 61% of adults living with HIV are women (cf http://www.trocaire.org/). These facts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to women’s issues.
Human Trafficking in Ireland
The issue of human trafficking in Ireland, although relatively new in Ireland has existed in almost every continent throughout history. However increasingly, economic necessity, environmental disasters and wars have driven people to cross borders. It is in this context that trafficking has become a larger industry than ever. Trafficking can include recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people for the purpose of exploitation. This includes persons forced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. The abuse and suffering that trafficked women suffer is in contravention of women’s basic human rights, and an abuse of their right to dignity and self worth. Although Irish officials are seen to have shown some political will in combating human trafficking through the drafting of new anti-trafficking legislation, key deficiencies in the areas of prosecution, protection, and prevention remain.
Violence against women is also a major problem worldwide.
From birth to death, in times of peace and war, women and girls face discrimination and violence at the hands of the state, the community and the family. Every year, millions of women are raped by partners, relatives, friends and strangers, by employers and colleagues, security officials and soldiers. During armed conflicts, violence against women is often used as a weapon of war, in order to dehumanize the women themselves, or to persecute the community to which they belong. During war time it is the weapon wielding soldiers that make the headlines but it is so often the women and young girls who are the silent victims. In a refugee camp in Eastern Chad an aid worker reported “I remember one woman asking me if there was anywhere she could go and feel safe. I didn’t know what to answer as I don’t think there was an answer.” (cf. http://www.amnesty.ie)
African women both in Ireland and in Africa have shown enormous strength and courage in the face of adversity. Women who have been at the bottom of the social ladder have supported their families, fought for their political, social and economic rights and continue to push for what is rightfully theirs. Let International Women’s Day be a day to be thankful for those who fought to get this far, and a reminder to work in solidarity into the future.