This year, International Women’s Day activities highlighted women’s determination to end violence against women all over the world. From Eve Ensler’s V-Day “Rising of the Billion” in February, featuring her organization’s work with women who are raped and tortured in war-torn Congo, to demonstrations across the globe in March, to the U.S.A., where we had to struggle to get Congress to re-enact the Violence Against Women Law, women affirmed their right to live free of fear, violence, and control.
In New York City, there were marches and rallies on March 8 and 9. The March 9 demonstration in and around Washington Square Park, organized by WORD (DefendWomensRights.org), was striking in its non-white color. A large contingent of Bengladeshi women protested about the treatment of demonstrators at home, where a Muslim party’s recent campaign for justice for a massacre years ago, resulted in the police killing 200 people, 33 of them women. Bengladesh is also where hundreds of sweat-shop workers have died in fires over the past few months, when they were locked inside unsafe factories. It was fitting that we marched to the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where a similar fire 102 years ago spurred the international socialist women’s movement to begin International Women’s Day.
We also marched past the Stonewall Inn, the bar where a police riot in 1969 first put the gay and lesbian rights movement on the map, and other historic sites.
The demonstrators were mostly immigrants, from the Philippines, Haiti, and Latin America as well as South Asia, and some African-Americans. The only openly “political” groups in sight were Marxist-Humanist Initiative and the Socialist Party. We don’t know whether more American women were at other IWD events—there have been many campus demonstrations about women’s safety recently–or whether they have lost interest in the holiday.