International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month

The right to self determination is crucial for our collective empowerment against discrimination and patriarchal systems.

For the past couple of years, we have been celebrating Women’s History Month in addition to International Women’s Day – our herstories are important in documenting our struggles for women equality and creating a positive legacy for the future.

Women’s History Month started in the USA and although the first Women’s History Month in the USA took place over 100 years ago it is still a relatively new observance in the UK.

As the chair of the National Women’s Forum, I have worked with colleagues on the forum and the equality dept to put together a programme of activities for the month including some interactive history materials which can be used at local union branch events and which will be shared on PCS social media throughout the month and we have organised two events to mark IWD and WHM which I will be chairing.

The first will be a fringe meeting at TUC Women’s Conference during the first week of March which focuses on black women and the pandemic. As intersectional women we often face multiple barriers and discrimination and our black women members in the culture sector and outsourced areas are amongst the hardest hit at work and in the labour market by the pandemic on top of the fact that black and minority ethnic people are contracting and dying disproportionately.

The second event will be celebrating women past present and future and we will shortly be announcing our trailblazing keynote speaker.

Details of both events can be found here:

The official theme for IWD this year is Choose to Challenge but we did not feel that this was an appropriate theme for us because as women trade unionists and workers we challenge every day, so we have chosen the theme A Better Future for Women #PCSABetterFutureforWomen.

The past year during the pandemic has been tough on women and has impacted in disproportionate ways on women with double or more impacts for intersectional women. From an increase in domestic abuse to women in precarious work – especially black and migrant women losing their jobs in higher numbers, having increased caring responsibilities for vulnerable family and trying to juggle home schooling, caring and work , the backdrop for what we faced when the pandemic hit us is embedded in the adverse impacts of austerity, low and unequal pay and a patriarchal society so when we hear people talk about going back to normal, this isn’t something we support – we don’t want to go back to how things were because life was tough for those on the receiving end of discrimination, misogyny , harassment and poverty – what we want is to go into a future that’s better for us all, especially the most marginalised and it’s crucial that nobody is left behind.

Our struggles against discrimination and barriers are connected and while we fight for the rights of our members, we cannot forget about the women globally whose voices need elevating, our sisters in the global south are displaced because of climate change, conflict and poverty, our LBT sisters who face persecution in some parts of the world. Here is the UK I have been supporting women and children with no recourse to public funds and no access to government covid measures and women and children separated from loved ones who are the descendants of the Windrush generation, detained and deported with no safeguards against the pandemic. The legacies of colonialism and imperialism have led to the persecution and discrimination that these women face and so knowing that history and sharing it as an act of solidarity and awareness raising to counter the onslaught of discrimination and struggle for gender equality we face as intersectional women in crucial.

Whilst self- determination is a must – the fight for women’s equality is the responsibility of all of us – men can be feminists too and the trade union plays an important role in that fight.

Zita Holbourne

Zita is standing in the PCS elections as Vice President as part of the Democracy Alliance slate. Click on the image below for more details.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.