Today is International Women’s Day, an occasion that began with the trade union movement, its struggle for workers’ rights and the recognition that women’s rights are working people’s rights.
“In this year of unprecedented worldwide pressure for women’s rights to be recognized, it is entirely appropriate that unions like United Nurses of Alberta continue to carry on this work when there is still so much to do,” UNA President Heather Smith said today.
Nurses are members of a profession in which women predominate, so they are especially conscious of the need to continue the effort everywhere to secure justice and equality for girls and women that International Women’s Day symbolizes, she said.
The United Nations’ theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is “Time is Now, Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives,” celebrating the work of women’s rights activists around the world to improve the lives and opportunities of women and girls.
The UN is specifically highlighting the rights and needs of rural women, who make up more than a quarter of the world’s entire population, and who are being left behind by every measure of development.
The UN’s Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, said in a statement yesterday: “We know that healthy societies include a wide mix of voices, yet millions of women around the world are being silenced and their potential cramped. The current solidarity movements have to be a tipping point for accountability; an end to impunity and the cyclical poverty of women in both rural and urban areas. Lively political activism from both men and women must target change for those who need it most.”
Here in Alberta, UNA emphasizes equality for all working people regardless of gender in its representation of its members and in the broader positions it takes in society.
“Each year on International Women’s Day we celebrate the achievements of all women, regardless of their national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political differences,” Smith said. “It is a great opportunity for all of us, regardless of our gender, to look ahead to the potential and future opportunities that our sisters, daughters and granddaughters can experience.”
The origins of International Women’s Day have been traced to labour disputes in New York City in 1857 and 1908, where workers protested the dangerous, overcrowded and exploitive working conditions of women in the garment industry.
The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911. In 1977, the United Nations urged all countries to set aside a day to celebrate women’s rights. The symbols of International Women’s Day are bread and roses – the bread representing women’s struggle for economic equality and the roses their women’s continuing efforts for a better quality of life.