Yet another International Women’s Day comes by this 8 March, the ‘official’ theme being ‘Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives’. As sardonic as it may seem, it fits the current climate of hope and despair women’s movements now feel, transcending borders and cultures.
As we prepare to march this year, let us not forget the Socialist beginnings of Women’s Day in 1917 and the brutal reality of the shocking surge in the killings of women’s human and environment rights defenders across the world in 2017, a 100 years later.
As we struggle forward through the current economic and ecological crisis, our social frameworks crumble and fail the oppressed. Systemic issues of globalization, fundamentalism and militarization trickle down into loss of livelihoods, violation of our rights and rising gender-based violence.
In this new era of neoliberal games, there remains no country for free speech and women.
There is no lack of evidence that the climate crisis is real and it is fueling conflicts, migration and threatening ecosystems. Yet our international agreements fail us, trade and corporations hijack governance and toy with the safeguards that are built upon human rights principles to suit their purpose.
In this new era of neoliberal games, there remains no country for free speech and women. The recent expose of sexual abuse in development agencies like Oxfam and UN refugee camps do nothing to comfort those facing these grim realities.
“Climate change poses the largest threat to human rights and indeed to human existence, that humanity has faced. To address it, we need to profoundly and radically transform our neoliberal model of development that has framed the global economic and political order in the last three decades. Climate change will force change. We can choose to change in ways that are more equitable and just for women and communities or we can continue on a path of destruction and a dystopian future of gross violations, inequality and ultimately, annihilation.”
-Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development’s (APWLD) feminist fossil fuel free future vision statement
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Despite the current thrill of the chase towards Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and every other acronym-ed ‘pinkwashed’ development frameworks being celebrated by governments and multilateral agencies, we have still collectively failed our activists and grassroots communities living through the crisis.
Countries have ratified and committed to gender action plans and safeguards that they cannot afford to implement, risking the wrath of tricky trade clauses or hegemonic patriarchal power structures. Some of the palatable gender groups in favour still operate in the safety nets of ‘cooking stove’ interventions and ‘pink’ coloured reports that only paint a false picture of what would make the world a safer, just place for women.
There is no lack of evidence that the climate crisis is real and it is fueling conflicts, migration and threatening ecosystems.
Declarations of global themes and short-sighted projects that fail to recognize the deep-rooted issues of inequality will not help create a just and fair future. As we rise up this year, movements are calling for action that ensures new, gender-just, economic, political and social relationships in a world prepared for the ecological crisis.
Just transitions generally imply a shift from jobs in carbon-polluting industries to decent jobs in sustainable, clean and renewable industries. Yet, to be fair and equitable, this transition must also challenge the gendered-division of labour, which places women in often low waged, insecure and informal subsistence and service industries. This just and equitable transition should challenge the foundations of paid labour so that both paid and unpaid care and domestic work, mostly assumed by women, is valued and redistributed. This requires reducing hours of paid work, allowing growth of the community, expansion of the commons and enhanced democratic engagement.
The countless acts of solidarity and hope that our women activists and gender movements have fueled in these recent years have inspired a rising revolution in transforming the world we live in. For every life lost, a community awakens. We are speaking up and shutting down systems that do not assure us our right to a decent and dignified life. We are falling apart, losing ground and holding on. In times of such crisis, staying neutral and looking away is being complicit in the crimes against humanity.
Choices and freewill are being stamped down by corporations’ greed and technocratic agenda that manufactures hopes to the masses without being held accountable for their exploitative actions. When we rise this time, let it be to disrupt such systems and bring in the voice of reason through peaceful resistance. As women of the world, let this march be our united call for change and be our tribute to those who risked, fought and lost their lives to keep us moving forward towards a just world.
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Featured Image Credit: This is Africa