JANE AARONSON reflects on ... International Women’s Day

New Dawn photograph by Jane Aaronson

International Women's Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.


I have always been interested in the concept of International Women's Day and women’s rights. However, I had not heard of the organisation, The Quiet Revolution. See Elizabeth Welsh’s chalice lighting words on page 5.

This year for a number of reasons, not least the election of Donald Trump as President of USA, I thought I would share some reflections. Like many people, I find Donald Trump's attitude to women is inherently negative. So I think IWD’s campaign theme for 2017, Be Bold For Change, is positive and very apt.

Last year, on 7 June, 150 years after John Stuart Mill’s petition to Parliament on behalf of the suffragette movement, I attended a private view at the House of Commons. The occasion was the unveiling of a light sculpture commemorating women's suffrage. Mary Branson, who had gathered together a team of craftsman, including my brother, Adam, designed the sculpture, entitled New Dawn. Adam had designed and blown the glass 'scrolls'. https:// vimeo.com/185826292

I've been thinking about the symbolism and how far women’s suffrage has come since John Stuart Mill's petition. I find it incredible that it has taken so long for the suffrage movement, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude, to be celebrated in this way. It is worth noting that in the UK we have a woman Prime Minister, a woman First Minister of Scotland and, until January, a woman First Minister of Northern Ireland. In addition the leaders of the Scottish Conservative Party and Labour Party are led by women, and one of the joint leaders of the Green Party in England and Wales, and also in Scotland, is a woman. The new leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland is also a woman. I consider New Dawn is a fitting tribute to women’s suffrage, but there is still more work to be done, which is why I like IWD’s theme for 2017.

International Women’s Day was originally called International Working Women's Day. The first celebration, a political event, took place in New York in 1909. It became a national holiday in Soviet Union and Eastern countries. However, it was only in 1977 that the United Nations General Assembly 'invited member states to proclaim 8 March as the UN day for women's rights and world peace'. It is now an official holiday in around twenty-eight countries, although in some of them it is only a holiday for women! In others, such as Bulgaria and Romania, ‘it is observed as an equivalent of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers’.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ International_Women's_Day

‘Women's rights are human rights.’ This is a phrase often used by women’s movements. So I applaud the various women's marches which took place in many countries on the weekend after President Trump’s inauguration. I am particularly thinking of the one organised in Edinburgh by seventeen year-old Leah Higgins. How heart-warming, positive and moving that was!

New Dawn photograph by Jane Aaronson