Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has appeared on an International Women’s Day panel along side singer Annie Lennox and the former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard.
Asked by the chairwoman Anne McElvoy, senior editor of The Economist, how Markle responded to media coverage of her, she said:
I don’t read anything, it’s much safer that way, but equally that’s just my own personal preference, because I think positive or negative, it can all sort of just feel like noise to a certain extent these days, as opposed to getting muddled with that to focus on the real cause.
So for me, I think the idea of making the word feminism trendy, that doesn’t make any sense to me personally, right? This is something that is going to be part of the conversation forever.
When asked later if she looked at Twitter she replied: “No, sorry no. For me that’s my personal preference.”
Liz Ford, the deputy editor of the Guardian’s Global Development site, reports that for thousands of women’s rights campaigners, International Women’s Day is just a day of prep for the challenge that will come next week when the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women opens.
Many will be congregating in New York on Monday for the start of the annual two-week meeting that assesses progress towards ending gender discrimination, and looking at ways to push leaders to speed things up.
What this means in practice is a two-week fight between UN member states and activists to keep the rights secured long ago under international agreements from being diluted or taken out of discussions that are centred around a priority theme. This year, CSW will focus on whether social protection systems and public services promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
A number of countries – you can probably guess which ones – will push for certain words to be removed from the official CSW outcome document. These usually relate to sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender-based violence. They will likely ask for the word ‘gender’ to be removed in favour of ‘women’, and will try to get any mention of LGBTI removed altogether. The word ‘abortion’ is also problematic, as is any mention of sex workers.
Blocs of countries will trade language – you take out any reference to ‘cultural and traditional practices’ and we’ll let you have your line about ending child marriage. Things got so bad one year that European countries refused to negotiate as a bloc because of the stance of some countries.
In 2017, with Donald Trump in the White House, US negotiators found themselves alignedwith Iran, Syria and Russia, countries notorious for trying to water down language. The Holy See, which has a permanent observer seat at the UN, is expected to push back on references to the family and contraception.
Activists will be heavily involved in lobbying member states to hold tight to previous commitments to ensure the outcome document, usually agreed in the early hours, doesn’t take a step backwards.
CSW is a hugely important event in the UN calendar. It exposes member states’s current thinking about women’s rights. The agreed document can and will be used by campaigners to hold their governments to account.
CSW also turns Manhattan into one huge networking event. Over the coming two weeks, hundreds of events will be held in around the city organised by UN agencies, member state missions and civil society groups. They will touch on a variety of themes, such as peacebuilding, gender-based violence, justice, humanitarian response and maternal health. It’s during these times that partnerships will be struck, people will be inspired and, crucially, energies will be restored for the fight ahead.
Theresa May has become embroiled in a row that has overshadowed her Brexit speech in Grimsby after only taking one question from a female reporter on International Women’s Day.
The prime minister took at least three questions from male reporters following her remarks but only one from a woman, Sky’s Beth Rigby.
When May refused to take any more questions, Libby Wiener, a political correspondent for ITV, shouted: “Only one question from a female journalist?” May responded: “You’ve had answers from a woman Prime Minister.”
May was speaking at a dockside warehouse on Friday to urge MPs to back her Brexit deal and urge the EU to make new concessions over the Irish backstop.
As well as taking just one question from a woman, the Guardian’s Peter Walker said May “utterly refused to deal with any specific questions.”
Adding to the sense of drift, May leaves to angry shouted question from ITV’s Libby Wiener as to why she only took *one* question from a woman on international women’s day.March 8, 2019
If you’re looking for even more inspiration (as if today’s IWD events haven’t been enough) here’s a stirring film from the Guardian’s video team, in which the author Jeanette Winterson reads an extract from her book, ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere’. She describes the threat to women posed by the future dominance of AI.
“AI could be the best thing to have happened to human kind or the worst thing to happen to women ever,” she says.
Through the efforts of remarkable women trailblazers in the United States and around the world, we have made tremendous progress in the fight for equality and justice for all.
My Administration has championed initiatives to promote women’s global economic empowerment through business, technology, and increased access to capital. These initiatives include the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative, Canada–United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders, Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s 2X Women’s Initiative, and United States Agency for International Development’s WomenConnect Challenge.FacebookTwitter
Harriet Harman, Labour’s former deputy leader, has written for Harper’s Bazaar on why her party has never had a woman leader. (She has twice served as acting leader.) She says:
Conservative women like Margaret Thatcher weren’t seen as subversive within their own party. She wasn’t saying that she wanted to turn this party upside down. She wasn’t saying, ‘it’s been a party of men, I’m going to make it a party where women and men share power on equal terms.’ She was about succeeding within the party power structure as it was, about beating the men at their own game, on their terms. She wouldn’t change the rules to make the party more women-friendly. She didn’t believe in that.
If you argue for positive action, which the women’s movement in the Labour Party has, then that will be and has been resisted. If you are always pushing at barriers, you’re a productive force, but not necessarily a popular one. Those leading that charge can come to be considered too unpopular for the top job. That is an explanation, but it’s not an excuse. There’s no justification for not having a woman leader. We’ve had a party for 100 years, we regard ourselves as the party of equality – next time it’s got to be a woman.
President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal will include $100m for a global women’s fund spearheaded by his daughter Ivanka Trump, the Associated Press reports.
The White House said the budget, expected to be released onMonday, will include funding for the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative – an initiative launched last month and led by Ivanka Trump.
In a statement to AP, Ivanka Trump noted that today was International Women’s Day and stressed the initiative was “working towards our goal of economically empowering 50 million women in developing countries by 2025”.
The White House also is expected to announce the appointment of Kelley Eckels Currie to serve as an ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues. The position was established under President Barack Obama and has been vacant since Trump took office.
Ivanka Trump praised Currie, who currently serves as the representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. She said Currie “is a formidable partner on women’s economic empowerment and national security issues”.FacebookTwitter
Young volunteers and campaigners with youth-led development agency, Restless Development, have shared what they are doing on International Women’s Day –
Mia, 22, from Madagascar
I am attending a global conference in Rwanda on family planning. I am leading a workshop for other young people and policy makers called “8 steps to get your government to keep its promises”.
In Madagascar young women are facing issues like early pregnancies, child marriages and violence. When people think of Madagascar they often think of the cartoon, but it is not a developed country. Myself and a group of young people started a campaign to change the law to allow under 18s to access contraception. We won our campaign! Now I can have safe sex without getting pregnant if I don’t want to.
I’m really excited to share how I won my campaign and support others to make change in their countries. Women have the right to have power because we are all equal with men.
Betty, 24, entrepreneur from Uganda
There’s a lot of gender-based discrimination against girls and young women in the labour market in Uganda. The weak regulations have confined women to jobs that are of poor pay and quality in terms of working conditions and access to social protection. These factors reinforce the status of girls and young women as secondary workers and housewives.
I have been supporting changes to laws to support women in the workplace. Recently, we were successful in changing the law to introduce a national minimum wage. Today is a national bank holiday in Uganda to celebrate International Women’s Day. I am giving a speech at the National Young Women’s Dialogue in Kampala, the capital city. The event has brought together hundreds of people from across Uganda to debate issues that affect women.
I am going to talk about how I have been supported to grow my entrepreneurial skills, and how I started a farm feed shop which enables farmers to access feeds for their animals. This has enabled me to earn a living as a young growing entrepreneur. I want to inspire other women to be a girl boss like me.
Devota, 26, from Tanzania
One in three girls are married as children in Tanzania. I am researching and campaigning on issues such as child marriage, violence against women and access to contraception. Through my research I discovered that, in the rural area where I live, local police don’t have training to handle cases of child marriage or sexual violence. I managed to arrange a meeting with the local government and the police force. The national police force agreed that their gender department will train people in the villages on how to report, and train the local police to handle these cases.
For International Women’s Day, I am training men and women in the villages on these issues and how to report them. It’s very important for young people like me to raise awareness and speak out against issues that affect us. I am now seen as a leader in my community.
- Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has issued a statement thanking equalities campaigners around the world. “Thanks to the tireless work of such human rights defenders in all corners of the globe, in recent decades, we have seen remarkable progress with respect to women’s rights,” she said.
- The new chair of one of the UK’s most influential business groups has accused Britain’s biggest companies of lying when they say they cannot find enough female or ethnic minority directors. Charlotte Valeur, who joined the Institute of Directors (IoD) in September, said she would start calling for new laws next year to force firms to improve their diversity if FTSE 350 companies failed to make faster progress.
- There were 6,355 survivors on Rape Crisis waiting lists in March last year, according to the End Violence Against Women Coalition. Rape survivor Fern Champion has waived her anonymity and launched a petition calling on the government to address the shortfall in specialist rape counselling support. It has 92,000 signatures so far.
- Spanish women are taking part in a nationwide strike and there will be 1,400 rallies across the country to mark International Women’s Day. Meanwhile, men in Russia are giving women flowers to mark the day.
- Emma Watson, Keira Knightley, and Dame Emma Thompson are among 76 actors, writers, business leaders and campaigners to have used a letter in the Guardian to call on governments to increase support and protection of women fighting for their rights around the world.
This morning, parents in east London staged a breastfeeding sit-in outside Newham hospital. They were protesting following reports that new mothers had been asked to breastfeed their babies behind a screen and that babies had been given formula without the consent of parents.
Pooney Sekar, divisional manager of women’s and children’s health at Newham hospital, said: “Privacy screens/curtains are available in maternity and neonatal units purely if mothers wish to use them. There are in some circumstances a clinical reason to offer formula feed in addition to breast milk; however, this follows discussion with the neonatal team and with the consent of the mother. Following suggestions and feedback from parents we will ensure that there is clearer signage and relevant information shared about their baby’s feeding requirements.”
Readers have been getting in touch to tell us how they are marking International Women’s Day. For some, today is an extra special day of celebration as they mark their birthdays.
Paul, 48, from Berlin is excited his daughter, Mina Coco, is turning eight this year. “It’s our daughter’s birthday so it’s cake, crazy and chaos today. Despite the party, I will be squeezing and kissing my daughter and thinking of my mum. I will also be sending love and strength to all women of the world – on 8 March and every day, always!
“As of 2019, it will be a bank holiday here in Berlin, but only in Berlin and no other state in Germany. It’s in tune with our true progressive style but sadly maybe not as understood nationwide. I hope it gives people something to think about while the shops are closed. I’m not sure a day off work solves serious problems though, but there will be protests and things going on throughout the day.”
Jo Barlow, 49, from Cornwall is celebrating her birthday today: “I am so very proud to share International Women’s Day with my birthday. A special day this year as I’m 49. As I get older, I become more and more aware of the importance of being a woman in today’s patriarchal society, fighting for recognition and equality.
“I am currently going through the menopause which seems to be a hidden problem, just like with periods, it is not mentioned and we try to hide its symptoms. This is so wrong! Something half the population will go through needs to be out in the open.
“On one hand I have signed up for a yoga and menopause workshop, as I want to empower myself. On the other, I will be celebrating being 49, alive, healthy, relatively sane and sober, with cake, pizza, a drop or two of red wine and a trip to Greenway, the summer home of Agatha Christie – a truly brilliant woman.”
Myriam from London considers herself a born feminist, especially with her birthday coinciding with International Women’s Day: “Until a few years ago, IWD wasn’t given much space in our collective consciousness or the media. If IWD is a big thing now it should also be a reminder of feminism as an international and still much-needed cause. In recent years we have come to realise that we had been too complacent about sex equality, unveiling die-hard misogyny in the western world.”
“I will be raising a glass to the loving and supporting women in my life, some of whom will be with me, with a special thought for all the girls and women all over the world who suffer simply for being born female.”
Marc Bennetts in Moscow reports on how Russia is marking International Women’s Day:
In Russia, where International Women’s Day has long lost any connection to feminist issues, 8 March is largely all about men giving women flowers and complimenting them on their looks.
This year, a bomb disposal robot even got in on the act, handing a bunch of yellow tulips to a bemused young girl in an online video posted by Russia’s emergencies ministry.
Vladimir Putin offered his own gushing tribute to Russia’s women. “You find time for everything – at work and at home, and yet remain beautiful, bright, charming and the centre of gravity for the whole family, uniting it with your love, as well as your ability to inspire and support, comfort and console,” he said in a message posted on the Kremlin website.
Putin’s comments came after he told female police officers: “What does a young woman need to maintain her figure? Three things: a workout machine, a masseuse, and a suitor.”
In Yekaterinburg, servicemen posted perhaps the day’s oddest tribute to Russia’s women, posing with assault rifles alongside ballerinas in an empty metro station. The project was entitled “The strength of a man is in the tenderness and love of a woman.”
There were, however, some limited attempts to use the day, a public holiday in Russia since 1966, to promote women’s rights. Events, including concerts, exhibitions and lectures, are being held in Russia and neighbouring Belarus under the banner “It’s Not Her Fault” to raise funds for a charity that assists survivors of domestic abuse.
At least 8,000 Russian women are estimated to die annually from injuries caused by intimate partners. The situation was exacerbated in 2017, when Putin signed off on a law that partially decriminalised domestic violence.
In St Petersburg, a group of men from a pro-Kremlin youth group burst into a newly opened feminist coffee shop during ‘women-only” opening hours and tried to force flowers on visitors. One woman appeared to pepper-spray an intruder, according to video posted by the pro-Kremlin group.
The Associated Press is reporting that thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews have attempted to prevent a liberal Jewish women’s group from praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site.
The women gathered on Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of Women of the Wall, a women’s prayer group that seeks equality of worship at the site. It coincides this year with International Women’s Day.
The women wore religious attire that ultra-Orthodox tradition reserves for men and swayed in prayer as Orthodox men spat, shoved and shouted insults. Police tried to restrain protesters charging at the women’s prayer circle, and said they arrested one youth for attacking an officer.
The Israeli government, under pressure from ultra-Orthodox parties, scrapped plans for a mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall in 2017.