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March 8, 2000 International Women’s Day

March 3, 2000

As we go marching, marching,
we bring the greater days
for the rising of the women
is the rising of the race
No more the drudge and idler
ten that toil where one reposes
but a sharing of life's glories
give us bread but give us roses ...
          

As we go marching, marching, we battle too for men, for they are women's children and we'll march with them again, Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes, Hearts starve as well as bodies Give us bread but give us roses ...

“Bread and Roses” comes from a poem written by James Oppenheim who had himself taken the idea on a young strikers’ banner who were working in the textile industry in Massachusetts in 1912.

March 8, 2000, International Women’s Day, was a date to remember in the history of the women’s movement world-wide: the launching of a planetary solidarity movement involving marches and actions reflecting women's determination to shake up the powers that be.

On March 8, women everywhere launched the World March of Women in the Year 2000 and publicized the demands for concrete change to combat poverty and violence against women.

Women and children make up 70% of people living in poverty – this is the case in Canada and around the world.

This dream of the Fédération des femmes du Québec is now becoming a reality. So far, over 3,600 participating groups in 146 countries are currently involved in this unprecedented project. Already, 75 national co-ordinating bodies have been set up to develop and adopt women's national demands, plan actions and facilitate co-ordination of the many groups that continue to join forces.

Press conferences were held in the following cities: Amman, Beirut, Buenos Aires, Brussels, Cairo, Calcutta, Dhaka, Geneva, Kigali, Lagos, Lima, Lisbon, Managua, Maputo, Montreal, Mexico, New Delhi, New York, Ouagadougou, Ouidah, Rabat, Santiago, Seoul, Tokyo, Vancouver and Washington and in several others.

A press conference was held on Wednesday morning, March 8, 2000, in Montréal to announce the official launch of the March. There were satellite links with Geneva and New York.

Here are some examples of the diverse activities from around the world that were scheduled for March 8, 2000:

  • Peruvian women organized a canto a la vida that included workshops, debates and theatre;
  • In Brazil, the Carnaval de Rio was the setting of the launch of the World March;
  • In India, women’s groups organized rallies, composed songs, created street theatre and testimonies on the theme of poverty and violence against women – and one of our Canadian CoolWomen was there to sing with them;
  • Moroccan women prepared a cultural festival where many artists participated in the start of the signature campaign;
  • In Bolivia, the March was launched with a Ch’alla – a spiritual ritual of the indigenous peoples of the Andes;
  • In Switzerland, there was a press conference in Geneva, followed by a march that lead up to the offices of the World Trade Organization;
  • Indigenous women planned to launch the World March in Panama during their third continental conference;
  • In Romania, the March launch took place in Lasi;
  • French women wanted to hold a demonstration at the Place des Droits de l’Homme and rename it the Place des Droits de la Femme et de l’Homme (the Rights of Women and Men Square);
  • In Haiti, the media broadcast songs composed to Meringue rhythms during the month of February and in the streets of the capital during the three carnival days with the goal of raising the awareness of the population regarding the March demands;
  • Nepalese women organized a march in Kathmandu that included floats, followed by a contingent of women marching hand in hand, dressed in rainbow colours of the silhouettes in the World March logo;
  • Mozambican women marched through the streets of Maputo from the Organization of Mozambican Women's Square to the Peace Square where they held a press conference;
  • In the Philippines, community assemblies, multisectoral forums, an evening torchlight parade and a cultural program encouraged women to act;
  • From March 1–8, Pakistani women presented dramas in different communities on women’s issues;
  • In Thailand, the launch featured a march, a seminar and an exhibit on women and social change;
  • Women from the Fiji Islands launched their March activities by playing drums and conch shells (huge seashells) and dancing;
  • Zambian women organized marches and televised debates.

See our article on Bindu Dhaliwal and Denise Campbell for more info on the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing. You can also go to Status of Women Canada for more info on International Women’s Day.

more to consider

Bravo for the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ). The World March of Women was born out of the women’s “Bread and Roses” March Against Poverty in Quebec in 1995. Organized by the FFQ, 850 women marched for ten days to win nine demands related to economic justice. The next year, the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) organized a cross-Canada march demanding an end to economic policies that impoverish women.

The story of the Québec women captured imaginations at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, and it was decided to organize a similar march world-wide.

The Co-ordinating Committee of the World March of Women has produced an Advocacy Guide to Women's World Demands. It makes the rationale for the March very clear – real and key improvements in the status of women and women’s quality of life (which also is critical for the children they raise) requires popular education and public support.

Women cannot achieve all of this themselves (yet!) but none of it will be achieved without the participation and support of women.

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

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