Happy International Women’s Day: Celebrate and continue the struggle

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Women marching in Chiang Mai, Thailand to mark the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day - Photo courtesy of Mizzima

On 8 March, International Women’s Day, we will all no doubt be taking time out to affirm and celebrate the various social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

We will be reflecting on how well women have fared in the education and health sectors, noting how women are participating more in the workforce and how the magic minimum 30 per cent target for representation is really achievable in the public sector. Yes, we will celebrate. Indeed.

But in celebrating these many steps forward, let us not forget that there are thousands of women who cannot join in this journey.

Let us remind ourselves that the majority of women continue to suffer hardship and struggle: single mothers struggling to make ends meet; women workers struggling on long hours and low pay; women and girls struggling to come to terms with the effects of sexual assault and domestic violence; women struggling against the imposition of patriarchal interpretations of religion; moral policing and the threat of unjust punishments; indigenous women struggling against the destruction of their lands, culture and livelihood; refugee women struggling for protection and security for themselves and their families; migrant women struggling for freedom from modern-day slavery and denigration; trafficked women; transgender women; disabled women – the list goes on.

These women do not have wealth, opportunity or the connections to overcome their hurdles. Every single day of their lives, these women face multiple forms of discrimination. If we believe in a common humanity, these women are our sisters; their struggles are our struggles, and their fight is our fight. It is together that we must raise our voices for a continuation of the struggle for gender and social justice despite the achievements of some.

READ MORE:  Break the silence to end violence against women

We should not underestimate how much has been achieved for women around the world. So much has been challenged and much has been changed. Once accepted cultural practices like foot-binding and the burning of widows on the funeral pyre are no longer in existence. Women fought for and won the right to vote.

There are now campaigns against female genital mutilation, child marriages and marital rape. There are also campaigns which promote the education of the girl child.

Violence against women sadly continues but there is greater realisation that it is totally unacceptable. There is legislation against this in many countries though its implementation needs improving. Sexual objectification of women similarly continues.

Yes, we know the challenge of patriarchy that insists on silence and obedience especially in religion. It is also in our hierarchical economic structures that so discriminate against women and most of men too. But the fight is on.

Because we have spoken out, have joined hands, the norms are changing and we celebrate the changing.

Challenging injustice demands our solidarity – all of us, whoever we are, whatever our background. For an injustice to any woman, an injustice to any person, is an injustice to us all.

So let’s celebrate today – the many achievements of women and the continued struggle for gender and social justice for all.

Stand up for women. Speak up for a just society. Happy International Women’s Day!

Prema Devaraj
President, Aliran
International Women’s Day 2017

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Prema Devaraj
Dr Prema Devaraj, previously a long-time executive committee member, was elected Aliran's first woman president in November 2016. She is also a programme consultant with the Women's Centre for Change, Penang.

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