What is International Women's Day?
On the 8th of March, we will be celebrating International Women's Day. A day that has a history rooted in female suffrage and worker's movements that span the globe. Officially marked for the first time in 1911 across multiple countries in Europe, it became a focal point of the women's suffrage movement. Driven by the larger socialist movements across the world, it helped to define the need for equality between the sexes and the importance of the role of women in society. Through demonstrations, marches and strikes on days marked as women's days, campaigners were able to rally far more support for their causes. Today it is seen as being a day to celebrate the impact of women in society, but it is still an important day that is used to highlight the continued need for equality and balance. The campaign theme for International Women's Day 2019, for example, is #BalanceforBetter, a call for a gender-balanced world.
Why is International Women's Day on the 8th of March?
The reason that the 8th of March is the day chosen to celebrate International Women's Day goes back to women gaining suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, a day that became a national holiday there and was later celebrated by other communist countries and the socialist movement in general. It was then adopted by the United Nations in 1975 and has since been celebrated by most countries around the world. It provides an opportunity to recognise the achievements of women in society as well as highlight the continued need for equality and parity in all aspects of social life.
Paper High and International Women's Day
At Paper High, International Women's Day is a special day for us, we work with so many incredible women and organisations dedicated to furthering women's causes in developing countries that a day where we can celebrate their hard work and achievements is great. To us it is more than just a day however, it is one of many days where we can focus on the work that we do and the way that we can continue to support female initiatives and opportunities wherever we can.
The producers that we work with and the very nature of our business means that we are constantly working with the aim of improving the lives of women in countries where they traditionally have been overlooked or even oppressed. Our standing as a Fair Trade Certified business means that we are dedicated to the principles that make being Fair Trade so important. Principles that align with the United Nations sustainable development goals, a blueprint to achieving a better and more sustainable future. Number 5 on their goals is for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, a goal that is echoed in the World Fair Trade Organisation's Principles of Fair Trade.
We work with so many wonderful producers that do so much for women in rural communities and provide opportunities that would otherwise not be available to them. One such producer is Get Paper Industry, a cooperative based in Kathmandu, Nepal. They are not only one of our most sustainable producers, creating beautiful handmade gift paper from recycled materials, they are also one of the most active in promoting and supporting female initiatives, services, education and employment in Nepal. They offer 1000 scholarships a year and sponsor 8 schools to help girls from poor communities get an education, run a ‘send your daughter to school’ program where they distribute school bags in poor communities in an effort to motivate families to send their daughters to school, run programs to stop girls being trafficked in Nepal and they have given us the opportunity to sponsor 10 children through them.
Another one of our producers, TARA Projects (Trade Alternative Reform Action Projects), is responsible for a lot of our lovely homeware. Based near Delhi, India they were created with the goal of providing avenues of financial and social growth for economically disadvantaged artisans in and around Delhi. They have since grown and among the many programmes that they support is a ‘Women’s Development Group’ that aims to train and employ women displaced by the destruction of slums on the outskirts of Delhi as well as offering free tuition to their children. This allows them to not only provide for their families but to feel a sense of independence and importance that would have been taken from them.
Fair Trade and gender equality have gone hand in hand for years, International Women’s Day is another wonderful opportunity for us to celebrate that, and to offer an insight on the progress being made and hopefully highlight the amount still to be done. Purple is also the official colour of International Women’s Day, it also happens to be our official colour, something we are more than a little proud of!
Do We Still Need International Women's Day?
As a Fair Trade company, all of our producers are in countries where women have traditionally been unable to receive the same resources, respect and opportunities as men. There is still a massive divide between the sexes in those countries and although we work with so many producers, social enterprises and charities there is still a long way to go before equality is reached. The need for awareness and action is still as important today as it has ever been. According to Fairtrade.org, the disparity between female and male workers is still massive, even within Fair Trade organisations with only just 23% of Fair Trade farmers and workers being female. This is something that Fair Trade as a concept and Fair Trade organisations in practice are trying to address at every point, but it is an issue that has far wider implications and demands within our society. The existence of a day to highlight this is not just a good way to celebrate existing achievements but is also a great motivator to create new ones.