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Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives

March 08 2018 - by Carole Houlihan, CLP's Gender and Diversity Specialist

Today, March 8th  is International Women’s Day (IWD). The UN theme for IWD 2018 is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. Not a single IWD goes by that I do not think of my youth, when I was a member of a small feminist singing group called The Red Berets.  We used to sing at protests, rallies and celebrations around Toronto and always participated in the IWD March. My favourite song was Bread and Roses, the song I consider the IWD anthem:

As we come marching, marching in the beauty of the day,
A million darkened kitchens, a thousand mill lofts gray,
Are touched with all the radiance that a sudden sun discloses,
For the people hear us singing: "Bread and roses! Bread and roses!"

As we come marching, marching, we battle too for men, 
For they are women's brothers, and we fight with them again.
Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes;
Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses!

Times have changed in 20 years! UN Women (in partnership with the private sector), has developed Women’s Empowerment Principles. In brief, the principles are: 

  • Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality;
  • Treat all women and men fairly at work - respect and support human rights and non-discrimination;
  • Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers;
  • Promote education, training and professional development for women;
  • Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women;
  • Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy;
  • Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality. 

Empowerment is about people - both women and men - taking control over their lives: setting their own agendas, gaining skills, building self-confidence, solving problems, and developing self-reliance. It is not only a collective, social and political process, but an individual one as well - and it is not only a process but an outcome too! 

There remains  a great deal of work to do to achieve equality and ensure that all girls and boys, women and men  have the resources, rights and opportunities to achieve their potential, fulfil their dreams and contribute to  prosperity and peace in the region. 

As we celebrate, let’s take action towards equality - for the sake of humanity. Let's make it happen!

How do you celebrate International Women’s Day in your country?

What are your memories? What achievements towards equality are you proudest of?

 Are the Women’s Empowerment Principles being applied in your workplace? If not, why not?

 What are the key actions you need to take to promote gender equality in your workplace?


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