Today marks 162 years that commemorates and remembers the birth of International Women’s Day.  On this day, 08th March 1857, a group of women in the textile industry took a conscious decision to take to the streets of New York in order to protest against miserable working conditions of working women.

Demands that were claimed by these women and that we still find as a challenge till today were:

  • Equal pay;
  • A reduction in working hours per day;
  • Some time to be able to breastfeed their children. 

During this strike, about 100 women were burned to death at Sirtwoot Cotton Factory that was caused by the factory’s owners in revenge against the women strike.

International Women’s Day is a global day meant to commemorate struggles that women of the world fought for and their achievements on social, economic, political and cultural imbalances.  The day is further recognized where women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parities that does not affect only working women but each woman in each household.

The day is celebrated in many countries around the world.  Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women movement’s significance has been highlighted by the fact that four global United Nations women’s conferences had been held on this issue. The need to support and enhance working women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas is even greater.

Appreciating that in all spheres of struggles, women are always in the forefront to eliminating struggles and imbalances faced by women.

That March of 1857 stood as a beacon for working women in their common struggle with male workers against exploitation and inequalities. Class-oriented unions were always in the forefront of struggles to eliminate imbalances, as they stood up for coordination, organization and counterattack of working women for the claiming of their contemporary rights. Throughout the years, there have been many milestones which generated the achievements of these efforts.

The Charter signed in 1945 of the United Nations, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally-agreed strategies, standards, programs and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.

Over the years, participation of women internationally took it upon themselves to fight and sustain as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. The empowerment of women must be a global focus of efforts to address social, economic and political challenges globally.

Women are faced by unlimited forms of challenges that needs us to be as revolutionary as never before, such challenges are limited not to young women and children.

The World Federation of Trade Unions, since its foundation, has been firmly struggling for working women’s equality and for the improvement of their position in all areas of their social life. For one more year, we join our voice with the working women and support their demands:

“-Reclaim our rights! Hit back the capitalist onslaught! Defeat fascist forces!

– Decent work and dignity at work

– Equal pay for equal work

– Maternity benefit to all

– Social benefit to all

– Health and safety at the work places!

Calling upon all women to take upon themselves to always be revolutionary and not be misled by celebrating International Women’s Day as a day to rest and enjoy but to remind themselves of the road and steps that women took.   Champion campaigns in , advocating and ending:

  • Sexual harassment/misconduct in and out of the world of work;
  • Ending child marriage’;
  • Gender wage parity
  • Access to quality education
  • Equal employment opportunities
  • Reproductive health rights
  • Maternal Health
  • Gender based violence
  • Child marriage
  • Female genital mutilation
  • Water sanitation
  • Gender equality

WFTU further calls upon each person to respect International Women’s Day and remember that this day deems a collective action and shared ownership for driving gender parity as what makes International Women’s Day a success.  And that the story of women equality belongs not only  to neither a single gender nor one organization, but to the collective effort of the whole working class, of the common working men and women’s struggle for the abolition of any kind of exclusion, discrimination, inequality and exploitation.

Working women rights are also human rights!

Grace Mathapelo Khanye


World Federation of Trade Unions