Saturday, March 07, 2009

Tomorrow, March 8, will be International Women's Day. This event which grew out of the socialist movement in the early 20th century is now celebrated in over 60 countries worldwide. the website for the international day is HERE. To learn more about the history and extent of this day go to the Wikipedia article on IWD. International Women's Day is meant to commemorate the struggle of women for dignity and liberty. Sadly even today there is still a long way to go before these ideals are achieved. The following article is from the Maquila Solidarity Network, and it highlights the struggles of women in the garment industry today.
International Women’s Day, March 8, 2009: A Day to Honour the Women Who Labour Behind the Labels:
On International Women’s Day we celebrate the struggles of women around the world, but March 8 has special meaning for garment workers, the women who labour behind the brand-name labels.

One hundred and fifty years ago, on March 8, 1857, women garment workers marched through the streets of New York City to protest poverty wages, 12-hour workdays, and inhumane working conditions. The marchers were attacked by the police and many women were injured and arrested.

One hundred years ago, on March 8, 1908, women workers were once again marching through the streets of New York, demanding shorter working hours, decent wages, an end to child labour, and the right of women to vote. This time there were 15,000 marchers.

International Women’s Day also commemorates the 1912 textile workers’ strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where women strikers adopted the slogan “Bread and Roses” – “We want bread, and roses too.”

On March 8, we also honour the 140 women garment workers who lost their lives in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in which the lack of health and safety measures and locked factory doors forced young women to jump from factory windows to their deaths to escape the flames.

And despite all that working women have achieved over 150 years of struggle, today, on March 8, 2009, we are still struggling for many of these same things – a living wage, decent working hour, an end to child labour, healthy and safe workplaces and an end to violence, harassment and abuse of women workers, secure employment, and the right to be treated with respect by our employers.

Read the story of Mexican garment worker, Reyna Ramirez Salce, and learn about the violence women workers suffer while making clothes for the North American market.

Today, we face an additional problem – a global financial crisis that is threatening to close factories and put women and men out of work.

On March 8, over a thousand women maquiladora workers will gather together in Managua, Nicaragua to discuss the “Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Lives of Women: Looking for Alternatives.”

They will be attending the 11th Annual Colloquium of the Maria Elena Cuadra Women’s Movement (MEC), and MSN Executive Director Lynda Yanz will be there to give a message of solidarity from their sisters in Canada.

Visit MEC's website for information (in Spanish) on their important work with women maquila workers.

As part of the campaign for Decent Work in Latin America’s garment industry, the CSR network, Red Puentes, is collaborating with the Independent Monitoring Group of El Salvador (GMIES) and the Labour Development Program (PLADES) of Peru to co-sponsor meetings and public forums in the two countries.

The groups will be screening two new Red Puentes videos profiling the voices of women maquila workers who have lost their fear of organizing to defend their rights.
To view the videos (in Spanish only), go to

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