By Freedom Road Socialist Organization
March 8 is International Women's Day, a day to celebrate our accomplishments in the struggle for equality and liberation, to take stock of the situation we face and to plan for battles ahead. Nothing can hold us back.
On March 8, hundreds of millions around the globe will celebrate International Women's Day. Here in the U.S., the county where International Women's Day first started, we urge progressives and revolutionaries to organize events.
The origins of International Women's Day can be found is in the struggle of working women in New York City. On March 8, 1908 there was a powerful protest of women garment workers. They went on strike for 13 long winter weeks and in the end they won. Inspired by this struggle, the German socialist leader Clara Zetkin proposed at a 1910 gathering of socialist women that March 8 be celebrated as International Women's Day, and that the fight to get women the right to vote should be promoted on that day.
This year we urge organizers of International Women's Day events to highlight the fight to get justice for Palestinian American leader Rasmea Odeh - who will be facing the danger of up to 10 years in prison and deportation at her March 12 sentencing hearing in Detroit.
Rasmea Odeh is role model and example to everyone fighting for equality and liberation. As a young woman living in Palestine, she was an activist in the struggle to end the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation of her homeland. In 1969, Rasmea was thrown in an Israeli prison where she faced horrific torture and sexual violence. After sending 10 years behind bars, Rasmea was released in a prisoner exchange and eventually she made her way to Chicago where she became an important leader in Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities.
A strong and resilient leader, Rasmea Odeh became Associate Director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) and the head of its 600-person strong Arab Women's Committee. When on trial last year, facing an absurd and trumped-up immigration charge, Rasmea conducted herself with incredible courage, facing down a court that would not allow her to present a meaningful defense. All of us should aspire to be like her and all of should rise to her defense.
On International Women's Day, 2015 we have our work cut out for us. The inequality we face is not a thing of the past. It is right here, right now. There is no equality where we work and we do not get paid the same. Nor do we get the respect we deserve. In many states, our reproductive rights are under attack - especially the right to safe and legal abortion. Violence against us is widespread. On top of this, much of the elite-controlled popular culture mocks us, demeans us and defends our subjugation.
Millions of low income women continue to be affected by most vicious attack on the social safe net in U.S. history - President Clinton's so called 'welfare reform,' which pushed millions of us into deeper poverty and continues to do so each year due to tightened eligibility and time limits on receiving benefits. On International Women's Day, 2015 we should commit to defending the social safety net for our families and resisting austerity. We cannot afford to follow politicians who make out lives worse.
International Women's Day is our day. It is a day to look forward to liberation, where inequality and oppression is a thing of the past. Change is coming and collectively we will make sure that it happens.
Long Live International Women's Day!