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March 14, 2014 - No. 28

International Women's Day Celebrated Worldwide

Women Affirm Themselves as Leaders in the Fight for Rights and Justice


Toronto, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day Celebrated Worldwide
Women Affirm Themselves as Leaders in the Fight for Rights and Justice

No More Missing and Murdered Girls and Women!
Memorial Rally for Loretta Saunders Demands National Inquiry Now!

Federation of Cuban Women Holds Ninth Congress
Cuban Women Affirm Commitment to Country's Leadership and Economic Model


International Women's Day Celebrated Worldwide

Women Affirm Themselves as Leaders in the Fight for Rights and Justice

On March 8 women around the world used the occasion of International Women's Day to take a bold stand to affirm their rights and take their place as indispensable leaders in the fight for rights and justice. This year's International Women's Day comes at a time fraught with insecurity caused by the imperialists' wrecking of the rule of international law and attempts to undermine national sovereignty, destroy economies and impose regime change. Meanwhile, neo-liberal governments around the world attack rights and impose phony austerity programs in the name of high ideals. Amidst this situation, the fight of women to affirm their rights is more important than ever and is essential to the work for the people's empowerment that will bring about new social and political arrangements that put human beings at the centre of society's concerns.

Canada

In cities and towns across Canada, people from all walks of life participated in great numbers in International Women's Day rallies, marches and other gatherings. They demanded an end to the wrecking of the society being carried out by governments at all levels who refuse to take up their responsibilities to defend public right. They discussed what measures are needed to turn the situation around. Many of the actions demanded that the federal government call a national inquiry into the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls for purposes of putting an end to these crimes once and for all.

All in all, the actions showed that women are a force to be reckoned with. The organized force of women surely has to be developed and brought to bear in the coming period in the work to develop the independent politics of the working class, empower the people and defeat the anti-women, anti-worker, anti-social Harper dictatorship.

Halifax

Montreal

Across Quebec on March 8, women marched, spoke out, exchanged views and reaffirmed their demands for all those things that permit them to affirm their humanity. They rejected that any limits should be put on their affirmation of their right to be, as any advance on the front of women's rights is an advance for the entire society.

In Montreal, hundreds of women from all walks of life took to the streets to celebrate International Women's Day. It marked the 14th year that the March 8 Collective of Women of Diverse Origins has organized the march. This year, the theme was "Putting an End to Precariousness in All Aspects of Women's Lives."

The demonstrators marched along Sainte-Catherine to Atwater and then to Phillips Square, making several stops along the way. In front of Canada Post's offices, they denounced the Harper government's plans to wreck the public post office. At a Service Canada office, they condemned the Harper government's anti-social Employment Insurance reform. It was pointed out how this reform has impoverished and thrown into the streets more and more workers, and that it is women who are the first to feel the impact of such reforms. Another stop took place outside a La Senza lingerie store, where a dance was performed to symbolize women's resistance and opposition to the commodification, trivialization and exploitation of their bodies. This act also expressed the demand to end violence against women and children.

People spoke up during the course of the march to highlight their concerns and express their opposition to all forms of insecurity people face. It was pointed out the great insecurity caused by imperialist wars and rapacious monopolies seeking to control the planet's resources, spreading poverty and environmental disasters, and displacing millions of people in their wake. Those who immigrate to Canada face all kinds of insecurity as well. It was pointed out how unemployment is twice as high amongst immigrants compared to those born in Canada, and that many immigrants face a situation where their credentials are not be recognized, making them especially vulnerable. Meanwhile, Canada's labour recruitment policies are aimed at having a workforce that is increasingly precarious and unable to affirm its rights. It was pointed out that since 2008, Canada has been receiving more temporary foreign workers than immigrants. Furthermore, many immigrants are forced into the underground economy and become easy prey for agencies and employers that seek to lower wages. Another situation is that of women who are financially dependent on their spouses, making them vulnerable to abuse and violence. Another important demand raised was for justice for the hundreds of missing and murdered Aboriginal girls and women.

At the end of the march, everyone paid tribute to the struggles of women around the world to fight for security, an end to exploitation and oppression and for a world that meets the needs of all.





Toronto

More than 1,500 people participated in the International Women's Day march and rally in Toronto under the banner "Women Taking Power." The day's events began with the Mary Spratt breakfast organized by the steelworkers to honour women workers. The rally, which followed, addressed the demand for a $14 minimum wage now, the impact of cuts by all levels of governments to public services, particularly on women and their children, the difficulties faced by the many women who are precariously employed, and the benefits unions provide to women. Among the issues addressed were the municipal elections that are taking place this year, that women have to find a way to change the direction the city is taking, and that both provincial and federal elections are imminent, and that it is urgent that Harper be defeated.

The rally was followed by a march through the streets of downtown Toronto. Banners, slogans and placards reflected the demands for regulated child care, an end to the Temporary Foreign Worker and Live-in Caregiver Programs, and an inquiry into the missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The day's events concluded with a women's fair at Ryerson University.






Calgary

International Women's Day in Calgary was vigorously celebrated with several events on March 6. A Community Fair and noon hour rally were held at the Jack Singer Hall, EPCOR Centre and in the evening, close to three hundred women gathered for the Annual International Women's Day Potluck Celebration. On March 8, youth-led interactive celebrations of women and girls were held at select Calgary Public Libraries, in partnership with the YMCA, and the Calgary Immigrant Women's Association.

The theme for the March 6 potluck held was "Inspiring Change." The potluck brings together working women, indigenous women, young women and seniors to discuss what their collectives are doing and what women and the society are facing. The guest speaker for this year's celebration was Autumn Eaglespeaker of the Kainai Nation, who is active with Idle No More.

Autumn explained why Idle No More was founded in the fall of 2012 by four women from Saskatchewan -- three indigenous and one non-indigenous -- to inform Canadians about the Harper government's omnibus bills that assault First Nations sovereignty and accelerate the destruction of the environment and the democracy. She reiterated the call for the government to take responsibility for the hundreds of missing and murdered mainly Aboriginal women in Canada, by not only calling for a national inquiry but implementing a national action plan. She detailed the ways the Harper government violates First Nations' sovereignty, including through the First Nations Education Act. She said that sadly not only had Harper been brought to the high school of the Kainai Nation to announce this Act but that Idle No More activists were forcibly removed from the meeting. The essence of her message to gathering was that women need to use their voices to inspire change in others, that the message is clear -- take action and use your voices, join or organize a protest, and find ways to empower others to make change.

Musical performances further enlivened the evening, including songs that opposed fracking and the Harper dictatorship and its incursions into Treaty 7 land.

Edmonton

A lively march took place on March 8 in Edmonton to celebrate International Women's Day. The lead banner "Women's Dignity Lies in the Fight for the Rights of All" expressed the spirit of the day's events, considered by all a success, which brought together women in the forefront of the fight for the rights of all, to affirm those struggles and exchange experiences.

Emcee Merryn Edwards welcomed everyone and Métis elder Gloria Laird opened the day's events. This was followed by greetings from MLA Rachel Notley and a musical performance, and then the march got underway.

A public forum was held following the march, which began with Edmonton signer-songwriter Maria Dunn leading the singing of Bread and Roses. Well-known local activist Peggy Morton introduced the forum. Whether it is the workers fighting for their rights and against austerity, the demand to end violence against women, or demand for new nation-to-nation relations between Canadians First Nations and Métis, we must be able to enforce our No! in order that our Yes! can also have meaning, she said.




Elisabeth Ballerman, President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta spoke about the fight to defend public sector pensions and expand pensions to provide security in retirement for all. Carrie-Lynn Rusnak, Vice-President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees spoke about the battle against the imposition of Bills 45 and 46 and the government's use of dictate instead of negotiations. Bena Buttery from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers spoke about the campaign to defend the public post office against Canada Post's privatization drive and plans to end door-to-door delivery.

Shannon Houle, a Saddle Lake First Nation Councillor, explained that she stood up to oppose the imposition of the First Nations Education Act when Harper came to Alberta to make the announcement. Aboriginal people have an education system that honours who we are, she said, and we refuse to be silenced when a system that oppresses us is imposed on us.

Erin Marie Konsmo from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network said that International Women's Day is not just one day, but every day when women are on the front lines defending our land, our territory and our bodies. We are resisters of state violence including the violence that indigenous women face from the police.

Migrante Alberta, a Filipino migrant/immigrant advocacy organization that defends the rights of the many Filipina women who work under difficult conditions as live-in caregivers, amongst others, also sent greetings to the forum.

Vancouver

Women from many walks of life organized events to celebrate International Women's Day in Vancouver. The Vancouver and District Labour Council Women's Committee held a dinner on March 7 with the theme "Celebrating Women Making Change -- Idle No More." The Vancouver International Women's Day Committee also held a meeting on March 7 with the theme Women Leading the Way. On Saturday, March 8 a demonstration in downtown Vancouver of more than 100 activists defied the pouring rain. 

On March 8, the First Secretary of the Cuban Embassy in Canada, Mrs. Miraly González González and member of the Cuban Women's Federation (FMC) spoke on the role of women in Cuba at a meeting organized by Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba.  The Ambassador of Cuba His Excellency Mr. Julio Garmendia Peña  also participated.  

The First Secretary said the liberation of women in Cuba was the "revolution within the revolution." Today women comprise more than 80 per cent of medical researchers, and occupy leading positions in every sector and branch of government. She also highlighted the role of Vilma Espin, who in 1960 founded the FMC and served as its tireless leader until her death in June 2007. 

At International Women's Day forums in Surrey and Vancouver on March 6 and 7 Maria Conseuelo Ledesma, member of the peace-negotiation panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, together with Nahla Abdo, a Carleton professor and U.S. human-rights activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz spoke under the banner "Towards Our Liberation: Women Struggle for Social and Economic Justice." more than 200 people joined the Vancouver discussion which emphasized women's resistance to the neo-liberal politics of imperialism. 

***

See also TML Daily, March 7, 2014 - No. 24, published on the occasion of this year's International Women's Day:

United States

San Francisco



Los Angeles



Chicago



New York City



Washington, DC


Mexico

Mexico City


Cuba

Havana


9th Congress of Federation of Cuban Women.

El Salvador

San Salvador


The FMLN government signs pact affirming the civil and political rights of women at
International Women's Day rally, March 4, 2014,

Nicaragua

Honduras

Tegucigalpa



Venezuela

Caracas


Brazil

Sao Paulo


Argentina

Buenos Aires



England

London




France

Paris



Germany

Berlin




Croatia

Zagreb


Spain

Barcelona



Turkey

Istanbul



Egypt



Kenya



Palestine

Qalandiya Checkpoint near Ramalla



Lebanon


India

New Delhi



Pakistan

Lahore


 

Bangladesh



Philippines

Manila




Indonesia

Jakarta



China

Beijing



Women members of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political
Consultative Conference (CPPCC), March 8, 2014 session.


Australia

Sydney


(Photos: TML, OFL, Free the Five Committee-Vancouver, Xinhua, Gabriella,Indymedia,FMLN,greenleft.au, FMLN, CubaDebate, A. Tunc, mauschen, Reforma, WORD, MinMujer)

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No More Missing and Murdered Girls and Women!

Memorial Rally for Loretta Saunders Demands
National Inquiry Now!

Hundreds of people participated in a memorial rally for Loretta Saunders on Parliament Hill March 5, organized by the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association and members of Loretta's family, which renewed the call for a national inquiry into the disappearances and murders of Aboriginal girls and women. Loretta was a 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador and a student at St. Mary's University in Halifax doing her thesis on the murder of three Aboriginal women from Nova Scotia. Loretta was killed February 13, the same day that the Native Women's Association of Canada presented a petition with 23,000 signatures to Parliament demanding that a national inquiry be held.

Speaking at the rally, Loretta's cousin Holly Jarrett said that on behalf of Loretta's family in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador she wanted to send a message to the Canadian government that they must take action. "We must not let this happen again without our government putting some serious effort -- not simple placating gestures -- into a public inquiry," she urged. She demanded answers from the Minister of Status of Women Kellie Leitch as to "why this government thinks it's okay to allow our women to be murdered at a rate of five to seven times higher than that of any other demographic in Canada."

Cheryl Maloney, President of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, reiterated the need to carry on the work that Loretta was doing on the disappearances and murders of Aboriginal women saying that "Maybe it wasn't up to one person to finish Loretta's thesis, ... Maybe it was up to all of us as Canadians."

The calls for a national inquiry, which were reiterated in the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, have now been rejected outright by the Harper government. A parliamentary report tabled March 7 made 16 recommendations which it states are intended to address the violence faced by aboriginal women in Canada, but did not recommend a national inquiry. Speaking to the report in the House of Commons, Minister of Justice Peter McKay stated, "I do not want to stop the action and the forward-looking policies of this government to stop and have an inquiry.... I want to say we will keep doing what we have been doing." What they are doing, according to McKay, is strengthening the criminal justice system.

Loretta's sister is organizing a nationwide candlelight vigil to honour her sister and other women who have fallen victim to violence on March 27 at 8 pm. Her call was immediately taken up by people from cities from St. John's and Halifax, to Oshawa, Ottawa and Fort McMurray.



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Federation of Cuban Women Holds Ninth Congress

Cuban Women Affirm Commitment to Country's Leadership and Economic Model

The Ninth Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) took place from March 7 to 8 at the Havana Conference Centre. The 373 delegates to the national congress discussed issues related to the role of women in the society. The Cuban Federation of Women brings together more than four million women over 14 years of age from all parts of the country.

Prior to the Congress assemblies were organized at the level of local delegations, municipalities and provinces at which members of the Federation debated their concerns and the initiatives they would take to put their organization at the centre of the social and economic transformations underway in the country.

On March 7, the first day of Congress, the participants gathered in working commissions. These included three working commissions, related to the values the FMC defends, educational work, image and presence of women, and the FMC in the media. Elections were also held March 7 for the national committee and leadership of the FMC.

The plenary session on March 8 debated the central report to the Congress and the conclusions reached at the commissions the previous day. The presentation of the National Secretariat and Committee of the Federation also took place on March 8.

Teresa Amarelle was elected as the organization's General Secretary and presented to the Congress during the closing ceremony. She affirmed the commitment of Cuban women to the country's leadership in the construction of socialism and their support for the process of updating the country's socioeconomic model to strengthen its prosperity and sustainability. In order to advance this work, she pointed out, the Cuban Women's Federation needs to increase the quality of the political and ideological work within the organization, taking into account the members' contributions from their homes and workplaces, including those in new forms of private and cooperative management being promoted by Cuba, she said.

The participants expressed their solidarity with all women worldwide who are still demanding gender equality and full inclusion in their societies. They noted that in Cuba, women's integration in all activities is a result of women's longstanding tradition of struggle from colonial times.

During the plenary session, FMC members approved the documents that will govern the work of the organization until 2015. The FMC also demanded the immediate release of all the Cuban Five anti-terrorist fighters unjustly imprisoned in the United States.

Speaking at the closing session of the Congress, President Raúl Castro stressed Cuba's pride in its women. The President also referred to the progressive change of thinking regarding women's inclusion, gender equality and women's empowerment in Cuba since the triumph of the revolution on January 1, 1959.

In the keynote speech of the closing session, Cuban Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura stressed the high level of participation and integration of Cuban women in the country's activities, and the importance of the FMC in the eradication of negative social conduct by working directly with families and communities. He added that the main task of the organization is to contribute to the defence of the Cuban Revolution from constant foreign attacks.


Left to right: Cuban Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura, FMC General Secretary Teresa Amarelle
and Cuban President Raúl Castro.

(Photos: CubaDebate)

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