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March 8, 2005 International Women’s Day Beijing+10

by Jude MacDonald | February 27, 2005

It started out as a national day for women, declared by the Socialist Party of America. Two years later, in 1911, March 19 marked the first International Women’s Day, and more than a million men and women came out for it.

They wanted women around the world to have the right to:

  • vote
  • hold public office
  • work
  • vocational training
  • the end of discrimination on the job

Less than a week after this momentous demonstration, a tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City killed more than 140 workers – most of them were immigrants, many only teenagers, and almost all were girls and women. This disaster illustrated many of the problems women and labour activists were trying to resolve.

It is tempting to think that the days of fighting for women’s rights are over. Yet that would imply that equality has been won. This simply isn’t the case.

Even in a country like Canada, women make up more than half the adult population, yet they only represent 21 per cent of our Members of Parliament. That’s less than one in four federal MPs. According to Equal Voice, Canada now ranks 36 in the world among democracies in terms of women’s representation in the national legislature, after Monaco and Nicaragua.

Ten years ago, the United Nations held its fourth world conference on women to address the rights of women. At the Beijing Conference, member states of the UN:

... agreed to a new plan of action with commitments to improve the situation of women. Canada Worked with UN Member States to secure the adoption of a strong Platform for Action, with key agreements in 12 priority areas for achieving gender equality including human rights, violence against women, health, unpaid work, poverty, and women’s diversity. At the twenty-third Special Session on the UN General Assembly in June 2000, Member States agreed to further commitments for the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.

— Beijing+10 at a Glance, Status of Women Canada

Last year, the United Nations conducted a 10-year review of countries' efforts to realize gender equality. International women’s groups – both inside and outside the conference in New York City – voiced their opinions. Although the conference was in New York, it is commonly referred to as Beijing+10.

You will also find all sorts of background information about International Women’s Day and the conference in New York on the following sites listed below.

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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