March 8, International Women’s Day, is both a day of protest and celebration. It’s a time to reflect on feminist achievements and to take action to end the violence and discrimination that women, transgender and non-binary people continue to experience. People around the world took to the streets. Today the Activist Toolkit profiles how important International Women’s Day has been for four movements around the world.

Chile: On March 8, nearly two million women participated in marches across the country, day one of a two-day “feminist strike” (March 8 and 9). In Chile this strike is part of broader protests against structural inequality which some claim really began with “the feminist uprising of April 2018.”

In the past year, nationwide mass protests for systemic change, including the overhaul of education, health and pension systems, have taken place across Chile. Protests have continued despite ongoing police crackdowns that have resulted in thousands of arrests and injuries, including hundreds of eye injuries

The feminist movement has been an important factor in both broader protests and in bringing women’s issues to the fore. “What we have realized is that we need to connect struggles that were divided over the years into one common struggle,” Alondra Carillo, spokeswoman for 8M Coordinator Chile This article from The International Viewpoint is a thorough analysis of the impact of feminist organizing on the larger movement. 

The two-day feminist strike in Chile is expected to be the first of several protests in the run-up to a historic referendum in April, when Chileans will vote on reforming the country’s Pinochet-era constitution. Learn more about reforming the constitution here

Mexico: Mexico also organized two days of actions, massive rallies across the country on Sunday and a feminist strike on Monday to protest violence against women. Tens of thousands of women vanished from streets, offices and classrooms across Mexico on Monday. The unprecedented collective action is testing the leadership of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. On Monday, he acknowledged the issues women were raising but also said that political opponents “who want to see his government fail” were helping instigate the march and strike, and blamed the violence against women and the machismo culture on past neo-liberal policies. Women are demanding change to deep seated systems and particularly regressive laws. However, there were some recent wins in Mexico City where protests led to the mayor sitting down with feminist organizations and creating a sex offender registry and the passage of an ordinance that punishes the unauthorized sharing of sexual content with a six-year prison sentence.

Iran: This International Women’s Day, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer who has spent most of the past two decades in Evin prison, wrote this inspiring letter asking for peace and change in Iran. 

One of the biggest and most powerful International Women’s Day marches was by the women of Iran in 1979, when they stood up against the attack on their rights by the Islamic Republic. 40 million: The Struggle for Women’s Rights in Iran, documents the feminist movement in the country and how women have fought internally for freedom. Right now, no one knows how things will go in Iran, but do not turn away from supporting the human rights of those fighting for real change. Do not let their struggle be used by the Trump administration to justify its actions in Iran.

Pakistan: The first “Aurat March” in Pakistan was held on International Women’s Day in 2018. It has since become a major event for the women’s rights movement in the South Asian country. This year, the main rallies were held in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, as well as several smaller cities. In 2019, in Pakistan, women at the International Women’s Day march held up signs saying “my body, my choice (mera jism, meri marzi),” which fuelled calls to cancel the 2020 march and, when courts ruled in favour of the women, a counter-rally was organised. The counter rally turned violent. Several participants of the women’s march were reportedly injured as a result. Sonya Rehman, a writer who participated in the rally, told Deutsche Welle that the Islamist protesters “wielded batons and had every intention of attacking and harming us.” 

“It was horrific,” she added. Right now the women’s march organizers have every intention of continuing to organize and marching again in 2021.

Finally, right now we must continue to stand with Palestine. Israel has ramped up attacks in the wake of the United States actions and most recent spate of elections. The Palestinian Human Rights Commission issued this statement on IWD 2020, standing for changes within Palestinian communities and homes, and internationally. Continue to stand up against Zionism and for women.  

Image: Al Jazeera English/Flickr


Maya Bhullar

Maya Bhullar has over 15 years of professional experience in such diverse areas as migration, labour, urban planning and community mobilization. She has a particular interest in grassroots engagement,...