Dear All- I am grateful to have this opportunity to be a guest blogger this week for the FSPA Justice and Peace blog. My name is Erin Cox and I currently work as a staff member at 8th Day Center for Justice. I came to 8th Day almost two years ago in June as an intern with the Loyola University of Chicago’s Master’s in Social Justice Program. Liz is my mentor at the Center, and it has been a great honor to learn and work with her, as well as with the rest of the 8th Day staff who share an abundance of wisdom and dedication to peace and justice.
I would like to take this time to recognize International Women’s Day celebrated this past Sunday, March 8, 2009. On this day, hundreds of events around the world recognized and celebrated the social, political and economic achievements of women. The first International Women’s Day took place in 1911, which was put forward by a woman named Clara Zetkin, a member of the Socialist Democratic Party in Germany. Zetkin proposed that in every country around the world, there should be a celebration of women on the same day—a women’s day—to press demands for the rights of women. The day turned out to be a huge success, and has been a part of our history ever since.
An international initiative of organizations, governments and women’s groups choose a theme to reflect the reality of women’s issues on a local and global context. For 2009, the United Nations focused on the theme: Women and Men United to End Violence against Women and Girls. How powerful and important it is to recognize and celebrate the strength of women who have walked before us, and to call attention the issue of violence against women on a multitude of levels. This violence is not limited to physical violence against women, but extends to economic, political, sexual, and societal levels, very much alive within all aspects of our lives today. We live in a world where 80 percent of the world’s 27 million refugees are women; where 530,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year; and where women do two-thirds of the world’s work, but receive only ten percent of the world’s income. (Source: Reuters AlterNet). It is certain that women suffer the full impacts of the world’s poverty and experience tremendous suffering during times of crisis—natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, or famine, or wars such as the recent tragedy in Gaza and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a response to the disproportionate level of violence against women across the world the United Nations adopted The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (or CEDAW) in 1979. This treaty provides the most comprehensive universal standard of human rights for women addressing discrimination in areas of education, politics, reproductive health, finance and law. According to Amnesty International, a total of 185 countries around the world have ratified this treaty as of 2007. However, the United States continues to remain one of the only countries in the Western Hemisphere to have not signed on to this treaty. In the United Statesthe passage of the CEDAW treaty would require two-thirds, or sixty seven senatorial votes. We must call upon our senators and new administration to take further steps to support women to achieve full protection and realization of their rights. I will provide links to take further action on the CEDAW initiative below.
International Women’s Day is an important reminder of the long journey through the desert that women continue to travel. However, this journey has been walked by many women who have the faith and courage to continue the struggle. We commemorate the strong, brave women who have walked the journey before us, whose efforts for justice and equal rights plant the seeds for the future of women and serve as gifts to the world. We remember those women in biblical times; Sarah, who answered God’s call with Abraham to take a leap of faith to ensure a covenant with God, and all women religious who speak out for justice and against corruption in the church and inequality throughout the world. We remember women whose brave witness has led to great risks, including prison, torture and death. During this most sacred season of Lent, let us continue to renew our faith in order to gain strength for our own journey through the desert. Grant us the courage to follow the footsteps of those women before us who challenge us to grow and speak out for justice on behalf of all women in the world.
Thank you for this opportunity and blessings on this special day of women!
Erin E. Cox
To read more about the International Day of Women please see: http://tiny.cc/uAxxa
To learn more about the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) please see: http://tiny.cc/3hR7w