100th Anniversary of International Women's Day

8 Mar 2011

The fire that changed everything

What established the modern celebration of International Women's Day in history, was the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York on 25 March 1911 that killed 146 young women workers, most of whom were immigrants. From the ashes of that tragic event, the pursuit of social justice for women and men ignited that day continues to be felt around the world 100 years on. From New York, ILO On-line reports on the fire that changed everything.

100 years later that struggle continues, and only yesterday Congress welcomed the Labour Court ruling on the Davenport Hotel dispute, which will see all five staff reinstated to their jobs on the €8.65 per hour rate of pay and repaid monies lost as a result of the dispute. Congress Assistant General Secretary Sally Anne Kinahan said the ruling was particularly welcome and appropriate "coming as it does on the eve of International Women's Day. The five Davenport staff are to be warmly and heartily congratulated for their brave stand. It sends a clear message to workers all across the economy, especially those in lower paid employment - your best protection lies in joining a union.

Margaret Browne  at ICTU Joint Women's Committee SeminarMargraet Browne (Secretary to Women's Committee and IBOA President) Pic Paula GeraghtyMargaret Browne also delivered a message of Solidarity to an international event held in the TUC in London

The National Women's Council of Ireland also launched its Women's Charter for Equality on International Women's Day. Congress President Jack O Connor Jack O'Connor at ICTU Joint Women's Committee SeminarCongress President, Jack O'Connor at ICTU Joint Women's Committee Seminarwas among the speakers in European Union House, where he made the case for equality being good for all in society.

Congress also marked the event with our Women's Seminar in Cork last weekend and with an event linking up electronically with Ms Lana Naem Ragheb Shaheen-Dghishwomen, - a Palestinian women who is Correspondent for Nile News Channel, Director of English News Department, Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, P.N.A. The Gaza Strip, and Producer for RAI TV, Italian Television who gave an account of present day life in Gaza. In Belfast the committee joined the Women's TEC march to the Belfast City Hall which attracted around 500 women, some local and some from as far away as the Congo, making it a truly international affair!. Later the committee were hosted by Dawn Purvis MLA in the Long Gallery at Stormont, where speakers including Dot Kirby NUJ, Pamela Dooley Unison and Lynn Carville - Women's Resource Development Agency, spoke on topics women and intellectual disability, women and privatisation and women and the cuts. This was followed by a wonderful performance by actress Vinie Burrows, who was stunning in her performance of a portrayal of child trafficking.

A new report for International Women's Day by the International Trade Union Confederation Shows Second Wave of Global Crisis Hurting Women. Women are facing higher unemployment, underemployment and reduced working hours as a second wave of the global economic crisis impacts female employment. The report, "Living With Economic Insecurity: Women in Precarious Work" shows that while the initial impact of the crisis was equally detrimental to men and women, increasing numbers of women are now either losing their jobs or being forced into more precarious, temporary, and informal forms of work. Globally the official unemployment rate for women of 7% masks a harsher reality, with a massive increase in the numbers of "working poor", those, mainly women, whose jobs do not provide enough to meet basic needs. A new video "Teaming up to make the difference" also demonstrates how the Decisions for Life campaign empowers and connects young working women around the world.

The TUC is also highlighting the disproportionate effect that the global economic crisis has had on women all over the world. It has affected women in the developed world very differently to how it has affected women in developing countries, but in the north and the south it is women who are bearing the brunt. 'Bearing the brunt, leading the response: Women and the global economic crisis', a collection of stories, articles and case studies from individuals, unions and NGOs is available here

The Fundamental Rights Agency has also created a special page on facebook.You can follow the link to the page "Untold Stories" where they invite you and everyone you know to contribute with a story about a woman who made a difference in the world or in your private life and who deserves recognition.