Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. I posted a blog about getting ready for International Women’s Day a few weeks ago, and hope at this point you have your plans or have an idea of how to celebrate women. Tomorrow, for International Women’s Day, I will be blogging for Gender Across Borders campaign “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” about how we, as a culture and as members of a global community involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way. I am really excited to be blogging about this at the same time as many other bloggers will be typety-type-typing away on the same topic, so please tune in tomorrow and check out Gender Across Borders and all the other awesome bloggers addressing the issue. Since that’s tomorrow, I’m blogging about International Women’s Day today.

Every International Women’s Day has a theme and while a lot of people use the United Nations theme, not every country, organization, or group of people does. Some will choose themes that are more relevant to what they are doing or the issues they are facing. I have been reflecting on this idea of a theme and the many issues women face worldwide. We are not one community, but many, and while this is amazing and beautiful and should be celebrated, it also means that we have different concerns and impending necessities for our survival as women wherever we are in the culture in which we live. Amidst all of these differences there is a commonality of being women and being treated as though we are subhuman because of it. Culturally this plays out in different ways, but the translation is the same, lack of rights, lack of pay, lack of equality, and more violence against us.

So what are women doing around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day? I have always said that if I had a superpower it would be to speak every language in the world, even the ones that have died. And if I had a wish for right now, it would be to know what people everywhere are doing to celebrate International Women’s Day. The International Women’s Day website has some events listed. Check it out.

What’s the big deal? It’s just one day. We should celebrate women every day. Yes! We should. But turns out, we don’t. Cultures around the world Do Not celebrate women, they do not support us, and they do not care about our health or our wellbeing. So if we can claim a little celebration on March 8th every year worldwide- Let’s do it. And we will do that knowing that even though it is our day, women will still be raped every 6 minutes or more often and beaten every 15 seconds or whatever that horrifying statistic is. Women will still be enslaved. Genitals will still be mutilated. Girls will still be trafficked or bought in the name of marriage and someone somewhere will inevitably be called a slut.

But this is why we celebrate. Look at the way we are treated. Shouldn’t we be extinct by now?

That we are not is a testament to our strength, to our perseverance. We are all strong women living under a system of patriarchy that makes us appear docile, dumb, dangerous, and devilish. A system that constantly and consistently becomes more and more violent against us while it tries to push us down.

We don’t have to keep proving ourselves to anyone but ourselves.

Here’s a look at what is going on in a couple of places around the world and the themes they are focusing on. What would your theme be?

The United Nations Foundation which connects the U.N. with others around the world has the theme “Connecting Girls Inspiring Futures,” which at this point almost 200 bloggers will be blogging about tomorrow through Gender Across Borders. I’ve got a lot of ideas and again, I’m so excited to read the ideas of others.

The United Nations theme this year, which many countries and organizations follow, is Empower Rural Women- End Hunger and Poverty. Gender inequality, lack of resources, lack of access to education, and lack of credit all affect rural women. The United Nations reports that in some parts of the world, women represent 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, comprising 43% of agricultural workers worldwide and yet 60% of chronically hungry people are women and girls.

The European Parliament’s 2012 theme is “Equal pay for equal work” as women in the European Union are still paid 17% less than men. They are holding an event, framed as a debate with panel discussions in order to come up with possible solutions to the gender pay gap. There are three panels. One panel: “Segregation of the labour market as a factor of inequality.” The second panel: “Closing the gender pay gap – Experiences and best practices from national Parliaments.” The third panel: “How can the EU support Member States in tackling the gender pay gap?”

In the city of Monash, a local government area in Melbourne, Australia, where there is a woman mayor, Stefanie Perri, they don’t seem to have announced a formal theme but are going with “Her Inspirational Story.” They will share stories about the achievements of women, including immigrant and refugee women, who have made contributions to the city of Monash. Way to stay local and recognize strong women in the community.

In Mexico there is a campaign by PEN International (Promotion of literature, Defense of Liberty of Expression), to raise awareness and speak out to the government about women writers who have been murdered and disappeared. Translated from their website: Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a writer. Since 2006, at least 45 journalists, writers and bloggers have been killed or have disappeared, most of them on the way to their work.

Since 2009 there there has been a rise in the violence against writers, and from that point on, the harassment of women increased. Five of the nine writers asasinated in 2011 were women; their homicides were especially brutal. For International Women’s Day, they urge their members to remember their women colleagues who have been killed and disappeared.

They suggest two ways to do this: 1. Organize to post obituaries in the national or local papers. 2. Write the Mexican authorities insisting they put a stop to impunity and demand that the homicides and disappearances of all these women and of all the Mexican writers who have been killed and disappeared are investigated.

In Juarez, Mexico, people will meet on the bridge at El Parque Chamizal to celebrate International Women’s Day. In the most zone in the world outside of declared war zones, where women have been preyed upon and murdered for years, and where homicide has more recently become widespread, women will still celebrate women and work for gender equality.

In South Africa: The Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute (TMALI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) South Africa will jointly commemorate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2012. This is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. The focus for this year is: The First Anniversary of the Arab Uprising: Women’s Role in the Uprising, What has happened since and What are the Prospects for Development? This is a gender analysis of the Arab Uprising a year after they began. They will debate what the impact of these uprisings, positive or negative, has been on the social, cultural and economic situation of Arab women as well as whether, ‘the revolution’ has led to a change in gender relations in these communities. Will the participation of women change the development trajectories of these countries? They plan to bring a strong delegation from the Arab Women’s League to share their perspectives and experiences.

These are obviously only a few examples, but in just these few, there are celebrations of women, acts of protest, and action groups being set up to work for change. 

Themes: Rural Women, end poverty and hunger. Equal Pay for equal work, the gender pay gap.

Inspirational Stories of Strong Women. Acknowledging the deaths of women telling the truth and reporting on injustice.

And: Is political protest and Revolution effective for social change?

These are all important for social justice- from the remembering and recognizing women’s struggle and herstory to the movement to empower women to standing up against murders of women for freedom of speech to looking at a collective movement of social change to determine whether it is effective.

So, I’ve been thinking, what would my theme for this International Women’s Day be?

Empowering Women To Take The Rights That Are Ours

Celebrate Women, Empower Women and Girls, Stand for Women’s Rights 

Gender Equality To Stop Violence Against Women and Girls

Now Is The Time, Fight Patriarchal Systems that Hurt Us

My Body Is Not Your Body

Women: We Make Decisions For Ourselves

Respect Women for a Just World

Women United Take What Is Ours

I can’t come up with just one theme. There are so many angles to take, but the real theme is Together We Can Change This Hatred of Women and we must in order to survive and thrive. What would your theme be? 

Happy International Women’s Day! In Solidarity- Liza Wolff-Francis