THE celebration of March 8 as International Women's Day (IWD) marks the increasing recognition of the struggles of women against all forms of discrimination and exploitation, and focuses on the need for equality, for national liberation, democracy, peace and progress in all countries of the world.
On International Women's Day, at the United Nations (UN) and across the world, women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, join in the commemoration of this significant event.
IWD derived its significance from March 8, 1908, when women needle trade workers in New York, reacting against their brutal exploitation, held a women's day demonstration to fight for the building of the needle trades union and demand the right to vote. The success of the rally led to similar rallies in other US cities and in other countries.
International Women's Day was first celebrated in Jamaica in March 1978. Since then, a number of policy and legislative changes as well as programme initiatives have been undertaken to advance the status of women. Over the years, the Bureau of Women's Affairs (BWA) has been involved in the organisation of the IWD observances and has utilised a number of fora to commemorate IWD and to provide public education and sensitisation to a wide cross-section of the Jamaican population.
Jamaica is a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS). The Inter-American Commission on Women is the arm of the OAS which is a specialised organisation for generating hemispheric policy to advance women's rights and gender equality. The commission has played a crucial role in making the participation and support of women an integral part of the priority of governments in the Americas.
This year is very significant as we focus on women's rights as human rights. This is in keeping with the OAS decision "To proclaim 2010 the Inter-American Year of Women". As a result, they have requested that governments, parliaments, international organisations, civil society, and the private sector conduct specific activities to observe the year.
In commemoration of IWD and the Inter-American Year of Women, the BWA will recognise the tangible and intangible contribution of women who have paved the way for national development. This involves working collaboratively with UN partners and other key stakeholders to intensify the efforts to ensure that there are equal rights and opportunities for women and men towards achieving progress.
-- Bureau of Women's Affairs