March 8, International Women’s Day, is a day to acknowledge the need for women’s equal participation in economic and political decision-making, to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of women, and to denounce gender discrimination and gender violence.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) approaches this day with an analysis of the root causes of war and injustice: the pursuit of profit, rather than the fulfillment of human need. According to Naomi Klein, the problems perpetuated by disaster capitalism include the limitation of political participation to those with “specialized” knowledge, the perpetuation of fear through the buildup of military arsenals, the threat of violence and use of force, and finally the corporate framing of news.
WILPF rejects the notion that gender equality has been achieved. While men remain systematically overrepresented in all levels of decision making, women remain economically disadvantaged; women’s work is under-valued and under-paid. From child rearing to the suites of executive offices, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts.
Women around the world are afflicted by violence; as the UN acknowledged in the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, human trafficking is primarily a euphemism for the sexual slavery of women and girls. The crimes of rape and sexual violence continue and increase unabated during wars.
Women suffer the loss of their children, their homes and their communities during wars as well as being the targets of sexual and physical violence, and it most often falls to women to repair their homes and communities. Yet women are rarely asked to participate in the process of conflict resolution, although their equal participation is mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
WILPF started in opposition of a patriarchal world order that used violence and military to govern. Therefore WILPF began as and continues to be the voice of the voiceless: to demand participation in political decisions on all levels of society—from local elections in San José, Costa Rica to national elections in Sydney, Australia to Conference on Disarmament deliberations at the United Nations.
On this International Women’s Day and every day of the year, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom continues to lobby in the halls of the United Nations, picket state capitols, and rally grassroots support for political equality, the cessation of war, and the development of a socio-economic system that supports human needs.