Napo Magazine - The Trade Union, Professional Association and campaigning organisation for Probation and Family Court staff news.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Every year on 8 March we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). This is a day that gives us an opportunity to draw particular attention to our own struggles for women’s rights, to link this with women’s struggles worldwide and to demonstrate international sisterly solidarity with working women everywhere.

Every year on 8 March we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). This is a day that gives us an opportunity to draw particular attention to our own struggles for women’s rights, to link this with women’s struggles worldwide and to demonstrate international sisterly solidarity with working women everywhere.

It is always worthwhile to remember the socialist origins of this day as its foundation around 115 years ago and subsequent history is truly inspirational:

  • The first women’s day celebration in the United States in 1909 was a demonstration by working women and their supporters for better wages, shorter working hours, better working conditions and the right to vote.
  • The motivation for IWD came from two sources: the struggle of working-class women to form trade unions and the fight for women’s right to vote. These two issues united European women with their sisters in the USA. In 1908 hundreds of women workers in the New York needle trades demonstrated in Rutgers Square in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to form their own union and to demand the right to vote. This historic demonstration took place on March 8th. It led, in the following year to the ‘uprising’ of 30,000 women shirtwaist makers which resulted in the first permanent trade unions for women workers in the USA.
  • Meanwhile news of the heroic fight of US women workers reached Europe – in particular it inspired European socialist women who had established, on the initiative of the German socialist, Clara Zetkin, the International Socialist Women’s Conference. This body met for the first time in 1907 in Stuttgart alongside one of the periodic conferences of the Second International (1889-1914). Three years later in 1910 at the Copenhagen Conference of the Second International, Clara Zetkin proposed the following motion:

    ‘…. the Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to Socialist precepts. The Women’s Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully.’

  • The motion was carried. March 8th was favoured, although at this stage no formal date was set. Nonetheless IWD was marked by rallies and demonstrations in the US and many European countries in the years leading to World War One, albeit on different days each year (e.g. March 18th in 1911 in Austria-Hungary, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland and the last Sunday in February in the US).
  • In 1917 in Russia, International Women’s Day acquired great significance – it was the flashpoint for the Russian Revolution. On March 8th (23rd February in Russia) women workers in St. Petersburg (then known as Petrograd) held a mass strike and demonstration (under leadership by the revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai) demanding Peace and Bread. The strike movement spread from factory to factory and effectively became an insurrection. In 1922, in honour of the women’s role on IWD in 1917, Lenin declared that March 8th should be designated officially as Women’s Day.
  • Initially celebrated in, and supported by, communist countries and organisations, International Women’s Day began to spread. In 1922, it reached China where March 8th was declared an office “half-day of work” for women in 1949.
  • The demand for women’s rights continued to grow, gain support, and shine a much- needed light on the poor conditions under which too many women continued to live.
  • In 1967, the notion of women’s rights was taken up by the next generation of feminists who called for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, reproductive rights, subsidised childcare, and the prevention of violence against women.
  • The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975, which was declared “International Women’s Year”. In 1977, the United Nations invited members to proclaim March 8th as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.

Despite many social and political improvements for working women since its inception, there is still much to fight for.

For example, a recent report by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) shows that:

  • The gender pay gap is 14.3%, meaning the average woman must work 52 days (nearly two months) before she starts getting paid in comparison to the average man.
  • Women aged between 50 and 59 have the highest pay gap (19.7%) and work the equivalent of 72 days for free, until Monday 11 March 2024. Disabled women face the highest pay gap at 35 per cent in comparison to non-disabled men, equivalent to £7,144 a year.
  • The pay gap varies by sector – the highest pay gap is in finance and insurance (27.9%). Even in female dominated sectors like education the pay gap is high at 21.3%.
  • Since 2011 the pay gap has been closing by only 0.4 percentage points a year – at current rates it will take until 2044 to close the gap.

You can read the full briefing here:

Equal pay day 2024 – tackling the gender pay gap | TUC

And if you haven’t seen the film ‘Made in Dagenham’, it is worthwhile watching (or re-watching!) this truly inspirational fight and strike by 187 women sewing machinists at Ford Motor Company’s Dagenham factory in East London, which was one of the triggers for the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

TUC Women’s Conference 6-8 March report back and Women in Napo meeting

Annoesjka Valent, National Official, is attending this year’s TUC Women’s Conference on behalf of Napo and a report will be given in a following mail-out, together with a date for the next Women in Napo online meeting.

A Woman’s place is in her Trade Union!

Annoesjka Valent, National Official

2 Responses

  1. I am concerned that the WASPI women have not been mentioned in their struggle to get compensation for the 6 year hike in working years before they became entitled to state pension. The DWP have been found to have been negligent in informing these women whose retirement plans were turned upside down. When men, of a certain age, lost their jobs they were given free NI payments without having to seek employment and women were promised this also only to have it withdrawn in 2018 so they had to continue to work despite many being of ill health or carers for family, elderly parents etc.
    I do think this should be highlighted as this has resulted also in a disparity in state pension, a shortage in NI qualifying years and women left to struggle, taking their work pension early to plug the gap until SP age leaving them financially worse off. Please check out the WASPI women and the struggles they have had taking the DWP to court. Remember women were not allowed to join a pension scheme back in the 70s, lost their jobs when they became pregnant and werethe main carers of children and parents. A rough deal indeed.

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