Then and now, International Women’s Day

Women trade unionists in New York. Photo: The Kheel Center

On March 8, 1857, women garment workers in New York City demonstrated against their inhumane working conditions and low wages. They were attacked by the police and dispersed. Two years later, the first female trade union in the US was formed by these women to try to protect themselves, asking for basic rights in the workplace. However, it wasn’t until 1909 that the first “National Women’s Day” was held in New York, leading to the International Day we celebrate around the world now.

In June 2017, Abbie Jenkinson, a TUC Tutor who has trained hundreds of UNISON reps in the South East, was tasked by the International Labour Organization to travel to Bangladesh.

Here is her story: “So! The reason I was there was to run some sessions on women and leadership in trade unions: We had 22 women in our group and we looked at running campaigns; negotiation and leadership skills. I showed them clips from ‘Made in Dagenham’ which they loved! It was a great experience and I was genuinely touched by the women’s commitment and strength to stand up for the most vulnerable especially in a society where women in the main are viewed as second class citizens.

Watch this short film on unions in Bangladesh

Hopefully there will never be another Rana Plaza disaster which killed 1000 + people and was the third largest industrial disaster of all time.
Many of the bodies were never found. On my last morning we all woke up to see the Grenfell Tower fire on the BBC news which was horrendous and the parallels were drawn about this also being a preventable disaster.”

Branches around the region have been holding events to mark International Women’s Day 2020.

Southampton District Branch (pictured below) held a menopause cafe and held a charity film screening, raising funds for their local Women’s Aid.

Eastern & Coastal Kent Health Branch (pictured below) held a special Women’s recruitment stall.