By Sandy Baird

Seven years ago, on March 8, a student of mine in the Pro Se Legal Clinic arrived with a rose for every female volunteer and litigant. That student was from Moldova, a former republic of the Soviet Union where International Women’s Day (IWD) is widely celebrated. The women of the clinic, including me, were deeply touched that we were being remembered and respected for all the work we do to better the world.
I was convinced that in a nation like our own, where women are threatened by and/or treated with violence and abuse, where they are often second class citizens, and where they are not fully trusted by
government and politicians to make the most personal and intimate decisions about their health and lives by themselves in their own conscience, IWD should be a holiday. The closest we have, as a nation, are Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, both of which only honor women for limited aspects of their being and exclude untold numbers of women. I resolved to wake up my local community to the International Women’s Day 2017 holiday that other nations have celebrated for over a century.
The earliest celebration of IWD was in 1909 and was called International Working Women’s Day. The holiday has always been widely celebrated in the Socialist nations as well as Latin America. In the wild days of the Russian Revolution of 1917, IWD became a national holiday in the Soviet Union. March 8 is marked throughout the world as a day when women are honored with love and celebrated for the economic, political, and cultural accomplishments that we have collectively and individually achieved. The day is also a time to commit men and women to the continued progress of women to gain equality with men, to work toward the dignity of all, to be free to pursue their own destinies, and to work as equals to bring about a more peaceful, harmonious, free, and beautiful world.
Four years after I was introduced to IWD, following a particularly horrific incident of domestic violence in Burlington, my resolve was put into action. A group of This slim little book by Dana Frank gives an account of the powerful female voices within the unions that organize workers in large banana plantations owned by Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte. Since gender equity and female empowerment are key principles in the Fair Trade movement, it may be somewhat surprising to find this novel focuses on banana workers outside the Fair Trade movement. Indeed, since only a small percentage of
bananas are produced according to Fair Trade standards, this book actually depicts the lives and struggles of the majority of female workers employed in the banana industry. Women in the banana industry are in essence fighting two separate battles. women and men met to think about what we could do to remind us that women and girls deserve respect and gratitude for the beauty and grace, as well as the power and intellect, that they bring to the world. The group was called together by Louise Andrews who worked with the survivor of the crime. Lu’s resolve to honor her friend and colleague led the group to establish the first IWD in Burlington. Members of the IWD committee include Ellen Sklar, who served on the board of the Laura Kate Winterbottom Fund, and members of Zonta, an international organization pledged to the well being of women here and abroad.
International Women’s Day will be celebrated this year at the King Street Center on March 18 from 1-3pm. Food from all over the world will be served and all people of all genders are welcome. The event is free and open to the public. This event will be the 4th year that IWD will be celebrated in Burlington.
Please remember and respect the women in your lives and express your gratitude for their presence. March 8 is International Women’s Day. Join us to celebrate it in Burlington on March 18.