8th March celebrations around the world

Marking International Women's Day.
Some events and activities for International Women's Day 2004.

Shirkat Gah celebrations as part of the Women's Action Forum - Joint Action Committee for Citizens' Rights & Peace. The programme started and ended with 2 short plays.

Adhuri Aurat (The Incomplete Woman) by Ajoka and a Play by Interactive Theatre group focused on Hudood Ordinances since the resolution emphasized these discriminatory laws. Songs, poems and skits interspered the plays.

The meeting remembered: Alys Faiz (the life partner of Pakistan's most famous progressive poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz) and activist herself; Khatija Gauhar a founding member of the Pakistan People's Party & peace activist who worked in the area of women's reproductive rights and health; Malika Pukraj - a doyen of our music; and Salma Sobhan. Though Salma is not a Pakistani per se, the organising committee felt it important to remember her as well.


Women in Black report that about 50 women gathered to take part in a human exhibition at the Imperial War Museum yesterday as we felt the Imperial War Museum's exhibition ‘Women and War’ mainly shows women supporting war. We compiled an exhibition, of photographs, banners and clothing worn by women at demonstrations against war, highlighting women’s opposition to war.

The photographs depicted women from around the world resisting war or dealing with its consequences.

This photo exhibition was put together as our effort to inform people visiting the War Museum that there is an alternative to militarism and war. Our pictures illustrate women’s peace activities around the world including Guatemala, Israel, the Philippines, the US, UK, Northern Ireland, Uganda, and the Balkans – trashing war machines, stopping tanks, demonstrating in a myriad of non-violent ways. They also show the effects of war on women’s lives – a woman in Afghanistan fitted with a new leg, women searching for missing relatives in Sri Lanka and Chechnya, a young woman clearing landmines in Laos, refugees in Iraq and Ethiopia and Japanese women working with Filipina comfort women.

We were not moved on by either the Museum security or the police. In the one and half hours we were at the museum, we handed out about 500 leaflets explaining what we were doing, another 100 leaflets informing the public who were planning to see the exhibition, how to look for the gems on women opposing war. We engaged with lots of people in conversations and felt it was a huge success. The photographs are now at South Opia (a women's bar in South London) for 2 weeks and will then go to Aldermaston for the Easter Camp.


Women’s International Coalition for Economic Justice

On International Womens Day, March 8, women from around the world are gathering at the United Nations to make a Stand for Peace. While members of the UNs Commission on the Status of Women deliberate on the role of women in conflict and post-conflict situations, women from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Europe and North America are saying that it takes more than negotiations to build peace. It takes just and equitable economic policies; an end to external interventions and occupations; an end to the pillage of nations by transnational corporations; other nations and local elites; an end to weapons manufacturing and militarism; and racial, ethnic and gender equality. Nora Wintour, Equality and Rights Officer of Public Services International based in Geneva, notes that, we are witnessing the proliferation of wars, conflicts and the rise of military influence in many societies. “Differences cannot be resolved through violence or the overt use of power whether in the domestic sphere, the workplace, in our communities, or between nations. Peace is not only the absence of war. It requires the presence of justice, respect for all human rights and full inclusion,” she stated.

The women’s action, convened by the Women’s International Coalition for Economic Justice (WICEJ), a global coalition with 40 member organizations from all regions of the world, also commemorates a year since the invasion of Iraq. Last year on March 8, women gathered at the UN to protest the impending invasion as the Security Council deliberated. Comments Yifat Susskind of MADRE, a US-based women’s human rights organization, “After a year of "liberation" at the hands of the US military, most Iraqi women find that they are far from achieving peace. Ongoing military conflict and continued violence against women and girls in Iraq prevent many from leaving home, even for food, water or medical treatment or to go to work or school. Women have been excluded from political decision-making, jeopardizing their rights for the future. Now, the Iraqi Governing Council, represented at the UN this week by its three women members, seeks to impose Islamic family law that would be a huge set back for Iraqi women. Any governing authority has the obligation to fulfill women's demands for human rights and human security.” War and intervention cannot be justified in the name of liberating women, and bringing democracy, as has been done in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Observes Doris Mpoumou, of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) who is from Congo-Brazzaville, “There are too many forgotten wars, that the media ignores. This is particularly true of deadly conflicts in Africa--including the Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and others. Women are affected by war and conflict in different ways than men--through lack of security; increased sexual violence; displacement; and lack of basic services. While we urge the inclusion of women in peacemaking, this is not sufficient. We need to address conflict prevention through confronting the economic, political and cultural causes of war. Women’s voices must be included in determining macro-economic policies and political decision-making to bring about a lasting peace.”

The women are taking a stand for peace to highlight the many places around the world that suffer from conflicts, occupation and war, and the disproportionate impact this has on women. Notes Carol Barton of the US, WICEJ coordinator, conflicts from Haiti to Colombia, from Kosovo to Philippines, from Sri Lanka to Liberia, are born of economic and political realities, but are often fed by foreign political, military and economic intervention that serve external interests. We stand for full sovereignty, the right to self-determination, and a culture of peace for all nations. Of particular concern at this moment is the forced removal of democratically elected Haitian President Aristide and the current violence against his supporters, as well as the construction of a separation wall in Palestine that divides families, threatens jobs and food security, and intensifies violence and violates international law.”

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the rights of women. However, these rights can never be achieved in situations of conflict and war. Those forces that use war to resolve differences or seek gain must be named and challenged, and just, equitable social and economic policies made by democratic, independent nations are necessary for lasting peace.

International representatives available for interviews, 1-3pm, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, corner 47 St. and First Avenue.

See photos.

See vigil statement.