International Women’s Day is dedicated to celebrating women’s achievements in the social, economic, cultural, and political spheres.

Its history dates back to 1909 when 15,000 women protested long work hours, low pay, and the lack of voting rights in New York City.

A detailed history of the development of International Women’s Day, countries in which it is celebrated and how, can be found on many websites. You might find the following sites helpful:

Throughout time women have struggled to move beyond stereotypes; have challenged societal biases; have called people to broaden their understanding of the nature of “woman”; have endeavoured to highlight their capabilities and therefore their rights. Women’s ongoing struggle for acknowledgement and equality has had and continues to have many different faces. We see this in Malala Yousazai as she stands up and advocates for the rights of girls to gain an education; in U.S. Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her determined quest for acceptance and recognition; in our own Edith Cowan who, in 1921 was the first women to be elected to government; in Mary MacKillop, who, in her own way challenged stereotypes of religious life and worked for the rights of children to be educated. We see a young woman taking a stand on behalf of climate change, and another sailing solo around the world. For some the struggle is to gain the right to work outside of the home. In the developed world, one of the today’s struggles is that of equality between women and men in remuneration for work.

No doubt as you read, each of you will call to mind stories of women you know or have known who, in their own ways, have challenged stereotypes, have broken through boundaries that have constrained them and have achieved recognition and equality. These struggles, be they very public or more hidden, have demanded much of each woman and often those with whom they are connected. For these many women, known and unknown, we give thanks for we today are the beneficiaries of their struggles. Never must we take for granted all that has been achieved on behalf of and for women. Walking in the footsteps of these women, each of us has responsibility to continue their work wherever we find ourselves, lest their efforts be in vain.

While this coming celebration on the 8 March is about the achievements of and for women, I believe it is important to pay heed to the words of Gloria Steinem, journalist, feminist and political activist who says “the struggle for women’s equality belongs to all who care about human rights.” The issue then becomes one of human rights, and surely this is what we are about – the rights of each human being. When a person is respected, acknowledged, valued, has a voice and has access to what is needed for their full dignity, they are enabled and empowered. Being thus empowered, each can achieve much for themselves and others. As each one is empowered so too our world becomes more empowered to continue to work for the dignity and rights of all.

International Women’s Day calls us to reflect on dignity, justice, empowerment, equality…

You might like to spend a little time considering the following:

  • Whom did Jesus empower?
  • Whom did Mary MacKillop empower?
  • Whom did/does society/church today empower?
  • What works against empowerment?
  • Whom do I empower?
  • Am I prepared to challenge structure that are oppressive and exclusive?
  • Am I prepared to take action on behalf of another as a matter of justice?
  • What personal resources might I need to continue to work for the empowerment of others?
On this day let us give thanks for those who have gone before us
working for the rights of women particularly
and those, known and unknown,
who continue to break through boundaries,
challenge perceptions,
and work for equality in our world.

Annie Bond rsj


Image: Group of women standing on rock fragment by Omar Lopez obtained from Unsplash. Used with permission.