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International Women's Day is March 8th!

posted on: Mar 8, 2023

International Women's Day is March 8th!
Female diverse faces of different ethnicity poster. Women empowerment movement pattern. International women s day graphic in vector.

By Alison Norquist / Arab America Contributing Writer

March 8th, 2023 marks the annual celebration of women and girls. This international holiday is a recognition of not just women’s triumphs but also the continued struggle that women face each and every day. For over 100 years, the United States has marked its calendar for the event, but it wasn’t always an international affair.

Syrians, Lebanese and Other Arab Americans
Syrian immigrants on Hudson Street, Boston 1909Boston Public Library

Shirtwaists, Sufferage, and Social Expectations

The late 19th century and the new century were difficult times for women and girls alike. American girls had little to no education and were often forced to work in factories, with dangerous conditions, for very little pay. Incidents like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 proved that young women who were forced to work in these conditions were not valued by society. This tragic event, which was more common than one may think, was just one of the many reasons for the Women’s Suffrage Movement at the turn of the century. Without the rights afforded to their male counterparts, women were not able to effectively advocate for better conditions. This also extended to the social expectations of women.

Thanks to women not being able to hold positions of power, not just politically but also in society, their voices were often only heard by the next generation. Relegated to being educators, factory workers, and mothers, American women were only able to influence through their husbands but also in the way that they helped to mold the next generation’s ideas of what women could be. This was especially true for Arab American women, where ideas of what a woman’s place was varied from that of some of their European counterparts. Their efforts helped make America what it is today, but their otherness was not always understood at the time.

Women at a “Take Back the Night” protest – Hoover Institute

Acknowledging Women’s Triumphs and Struggles

It was during this turn into the 20th century that women were finally gaining recognition for their suffering. In 1909, the United States began to celebrate National Woman’s Day on the last Sunday of February thanks in part to the Socialist Party of America. The trend gained momentum quickly, becoming an international event in 1911 when European countries began to join in. It would be another 64 years before it would be picked up by the United Nations and celebrated globally. Now, International Women’s Day is a global day of recognition of women’s achievements but also of the many who are still left in deplorable conditions.

Now, more than ever, it is important to continue to discuss the many topics that women face. From underage brides and mothers, reproductive rights, and education to narrowing the wage gaps, ensuring menstrual products for those in need, and ensuring that gender-based violence is a thing of the past. All of these issues, combined with the nuances of racial disparity, islamophobia (and all that it entails), and immigration reforms that have in the past made it more difficult for people of Arab descent to enter America make the need for equity even more necessary than ever.

Support of female rights during International Women’s Day – WikiMedia

Do Your Part

This year, the theme is #EmbraceEquity. While the purpose of the day is to focus on women and girls, it is the larger message that is being broadcast this year: “Why equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.” In order to give everyone the same opportunities to thrive, some will need more help than others. This is true when we look at gender and racial divide, classism, and economic status not just in America but globally. there is no universal standard that will help everyone, for there is no universal circumstance.

Consider donating money or volunteering with organizations that focus on promoting not just equality, but also equity. The International Women’s Day organization and International Rescue Committee, whose work in Arab countries has helped ensure that the very necessities of living are ensured for women and families, both highlight efforts both at home and abroad that strive to bring stability and opportunity. The American Civil Liberties Union, who daily fight for the dozens of rights that pertain to women and girls, especially in economics, education, and healthcare. Learn about the various local organizations in your town that help empower women and girls or mentor young women as a Big Sister.

Don’t forget to also reach out to the women in your life. Listen to their stories and learn from their experience. By understanding the struggles that women face daily, everyone can do their part in ensuring that the future is safer and equitable for us all.

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