From “Bread and Roses” to “Rights, Respect and Fair Food” – International Women’s Day

“There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a day of recognition that has been observed for over 100 years and draws people from around the globe to commemorate the advancements made in women’s human rights and to celebrate the vital role of women in society. This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women” seeks to strengthen international community’s commitment to put an end to violence against women.

Violence (physical and sexual) often comes hand in hand with labor exploitation; particularly when the exploited person is female.

The origins of IWD trace back to 1857, when garment workers in NYC staged a protest against low pay inhumane working conditions. The movement led to the creation of the first women’s labor union. 50 years later women came together again seeking voting rights and an end to child labor. Their battle cry was “Bread and Roses” – bread symbolizing economic security and roses for better living standards.

The first National Women’s Day was celebrated on Feb. 28, 1909 in the United States. International Women’s Day came 3 years later and had no set date of observance. That is until the Triangle Waist Company tragedy that killed 146 immigrant workers.

Here we are, over 100 years later, and women around the globe still face discrimination, oppression, and outright exploitation.

Worldwide today:

  • Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
  • Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
  • Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
  • Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18…

And here in the United States, women are still fighting for fair labor laws and standards that ensure an ability to feed their families as well as freedom from sexual assault or harassment. How is this still the same battle?

Men, women, and children from Immokalee, Florida have spent the last week joining with people across the state in a march for “Rights, Respect and Fair Food”; an effort to convince Publix supermarkets to ”honor the breakthrough social responsibility partnership for farm labor reform known as the Fair Food Program. I shared about the struggle of farmworkers and the CIW in “Publix and the Business of Atrocities”.

Along with the labor exploitation that they share with their male counterparts, female farmworkers face the reality of sexual harassment and violence. Like the garment workers of 1857, the women who marched crying out “Bread and Roses”, and the victims of the triangle Waist Company tragedy, the people involved in the march against Publix are seeking what we all seek: to be safe, to be secure, and to be acknowledged.

This march is not only seeking fair pay for all Immokalee farmworkers; it is hundreds of people seeking a promise.

“A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”

I will be joining my brothers and sisters on march 17 for the final 6 miles of the march and the rally at Publix Headquarters. So I’ll ask you again, will you join us?

Joining the march is not the only way to support CIW and the farmworkers. Visit here to learn how you can take part in the “March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food”.

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2 thoughts on “From “Bread and Roses” to “Rights, Respect and Fair Food” – International Women’s Day

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