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March 9, 2009
Global communities mark International Women’s Day

A parade in Cameroon on International Women’s Day.

Sunday marked International Women’s Day, a global day recognizing economic, political and social achievements of women.

Amid celebrations worldwide, from Cameroon to Chile, some of the discussion focused on how the gender gap may be impacted by the worsening economic crisis

“It is expected that women and girls in both developed and developing countries will be particularly affected by job cuts, lose of livelihoods, increased responsibilities in all spheres of their life, and an increased risk of societal and domestic violence,” reported the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Yakin Ertürk, on Sunday. 

Read an account of International Women’s Day in Liberia, where hundreds of world representatives met for the International Colloquium on Women: Liberian summit celebrates African women with laughter.

Blogger “Dawn,” an American living in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo, writes about a women’s day march outside her apartment:

Somehow I had never noticed women’s day until I came to live in Africa. […] Here, it is a big deal. […] The event consists of women parading around town. Each group of women buys matching outfits, carries a banner and often something to signify their group. For example, the group of women who sell shoes were carrying shoes on their head.

[…]If there is anywhere in the world, where women deserately need to stand together and show their strength it is here in Congo. The incidence of rape in Eastern Congo is the highest in the world right now. And if there is anywhere that they could speak out, it is here in Congo. Congolese women are strong; they are not timid. Certainly they were not timid as they jostled for the best place in line. I understand that there are some places in the world where women are simply unable to stand together and make a statement. They are too afraid to raise their voices. But this is not that place.

And so I found it heartbreaking when I began to calculate the amount of money women spend to buy cloth for this one day. And I considered the power that a group of women this large could have, if they decided to tackle an issue that women here struggle with. So much could be done on this day.  

Learn more about violence against Congolese women in our signature video: Rape as a weapon of war in DR Congo.

The “American Bedu” blog, written by a former American diplomat living in Saudi Arabia, discusses the country’s progress in terms of gender equality:

For those who take relish in reading of the lack of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia and viewing the Saudi woman as among the most oppressed in the world, I’d like to point out that Saudi women are consistently receiving more opportunities. These are opportunities in education, employment, legal rights, etc. I know there will be so many naysayers saying these are minimal and only because a “man” approved but guess what…that is a fact of life in Saudi Arabia. And this fact will not change until Saudi women (and not expat women or other groups) choose to take initiatives for changes – if they want them in the first place.

[…] I wish to recognize my dear Saudi mother-in-law, Mama Moudy. She may never drive, she may never be seen uncovered, she may not be educated but she is among one of the wisest, compassionate, supportive (she accepted her son marrying an American!), kind and beautiful (inside and out) women I have met.

Blogger Roshan Norouzi, a photographer in Iran, posts images of a young Iranian man wearing a headscarf in solidarity with women.

An American blogger named “Bethany,” living in Jerusalem, writes about a women’s march against demolitions of Palestinian homes:

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. […] Right here in Jerusalem, a group of women celebrated this holiday. Here, however, the focus was not solely on women. A group of women formed a march against home demolitions occurring in the Al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan. 88 homes have been set for home demolitions, which will result in the displacement of 1500 Palestinians. Demolitions in Silwan, will leave room for a park, hardly a justification for leaving 1500 people homeless.

A coworker of mine and I joined in the March against the home demolitions in Silwan. It was powerful to see the strength of the women involved and clear that Palestinian women often emerge as the movers and shakers of their society. When the group began to form before the march, the leading women handed out posters. The posters symbolized the essence of a Palestinian woman. They are rooted in the land, the protectors of livelihood (symbolized by olive trees), and shine light to the world. As the group began to walk into the area of Silwan, chants emanated from everyone following. We made our way through the neighborhood to an area where the home demolitions are planned. When we got to this area, we joined a group already congregated underneath a tent, holding a rally for the Al-Bustan neighborhood. Both men and women, children and elders joined together in solidarity. You could see the passion of the people as they expressed their frustration and heartache over their families and friends who were losing their homes. Children even joined in the peaceful protest. They sang a song dedicated to Silwan and joined in the chanting. One of the most precious moments happened when a girl, probably about 6 years old, shouted a chant in the silence, which rallied the whole group to join in a response.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user zzilch under a Creative Commons license.

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