Today is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate victories and progress in the struggle for equality and justice for women, but also a day to take action in support of the so many women and girls around the world who still face discrimination, repression, violence, and death, just for being female.
In our travels we have seen what this struggle looks like. In the small village in northern Ghana we visited, the gender roles were well defined – the women cooked and cleaned and looked after the children, all well out of sight, while the men socialized out front under mango trees and expected to be waited on. In Cairo, women were also expected to stay out of sight, and although it was wonderful to see so many women of all ages participating in the protests last year (and being part of organizing them), women have been completely shut out of the process of rebuilding Egypt.
Closer to home, we have followed with concern the slow collapse of the deeply flawed inquiry into missing and murdered women in BC, as police and other officials dominate testimony while women and Aboriginal groups continue to be marginalized or effectively shut out of the proceedings. This is clearly not acceptable and we encourage everyone to let the BC government know how they feel about this.
Here is Chile, it has been shocking to see how bus and taxi drivers constantly honk and whistle at young women on the street as they drive by, as if they think they are paying them a compliment. Last night we attended a government-sponsored International Women’s Day event in Vina del Mar. It was odd for us in a number of ways. The MC was male, and for the first 45 minutes or so, the entertainers were men, obviously well-known to the audience. The first singer was a young man in a tight white jump suit who shook his hips like Elvis as he sang, to the delight of the mostly female audience, a strange way to celebrate IWD! The singers were followed by a government propaganda film showing the current male president shaking hands with women in various work, community, and home settings, while information on programs for women was listed on screen. The film was followed by a male guest speaker, and then, more than an hour into the event, a women was finally invited up to speak (she was also well known to the crowd). After her, yet another man was brought up to speak and that’s when we decided to find a bus back to Valparaiso as it was approaching dusk.
What we need now is to find an event organized by women’s groups to offset last night’s male-dominated government event. Some militant banners and chanting would do the trick!
In the meantime, we invite our readers to take action in solidarity with women in the Middle East and North Africa through these Amnesty International cases highlighted for International Women’s Day.