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Happy Women’s Day (not)

March 8, 2017

Back in the early 1990s, when I first started working for Greenpeace, someone asked me what the organisation was planning for Earth Day. I had no idea, hadn’t heard any mention made of it. So I popped into to the director’s office to ask her. “Nothing,” she said. “We believe every day is Earth Day.” Okay, I got that. As lovely as it was that one day of the year people would march behind a giant balloon painted to look like Earth (and quite possibly made of PVC) or that they would spend an afternoon picking up litter or clearing streams, if they got back into their gas guzzling SUV afterwards, feeling good about their contribution, drove home and started watering their gigantic lawn, it really wasn’t going to do the planet any long term good. It was a lip service day.

That’s pretty much how I feel about March 8th. It’s a lipstick service day.

How many women (and girls) will be raped today?  Thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? How many will report it? Even have the option of reporting it? How many of those rapists will get away scot free?

sex trafficking

How many women (and girls) are enslaved by sex traffickers today? According to the UN the figure is roughly 2.5 million, which is roughly the population of Toronto. Imagine a city that size, the entire population of which has been lured or sold into the sex trade. This ain’t Pretty Woman. This is ugly, ugly shit. These women and girls are raped repeatedly day in and day out.

chibok girls

How many girls are being denied an education today solely on the basis of their gender? I’ve seen figures as high as 130 million, but even if the figure is much lower, even if the figure is, as UNICEF suggests, 87 million, that is 87 million too many. Almost everyone in the world agrees that the single most effective tool in reducing global poverty is the education of girls. Unfortunately the minority who disagree are the dickheads who, for cultural or religious reasons are violently opposed to female education.


How many mothers’ children will die today of easily preventable diseases? We know the answer: nearly 30,000 children under the age of five – 21 per minute – will die today. Those are the children who will die from the lack of clean water and basic sanitation. Then there are the children of starving mothers dying of starvation. Add several million a year there.


How many millions of women – and girls – today are working in death trap sweatshops, forced to endure sexual assault and harassment by their sleazy employers in order to keep the only job available to them and the pennies-a-day salaries they need to feed their children?

domestic violence

How many millions of women – and children – will be the victims of domestic violence today?


How many millions of women – and girls – today are enduring the culturally inescapable hell of abusive forced marriages?


How many girls are having their genitals mutilated?

How about we make every day Women’s Day until the answers to all these questions is no longer in the millions, until the answer is zero?

Now that is something I’d be prepared to celebrate on some future March 8th.

From → Columns

One Comment
  1. janeshead permalink

    Great post.

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