March 8 is for women worldwide

People around the globe will gather on March 8 to celebrate and advocate on behalf of women and girls. One such International Women’s Day gathering is a collaborative luncheon in Marion.

The Women’s Equality Coalition of Linn County and the local branch of the American Association of University Women are partnering to host a catered box lunch event at Hills Bank, 3204 7th Ave., beginning at noon. Space is limited; advance tickets are $15 with all proceeds benefiting the Nancylee Ziese Scholarship Fund.

“I think it’s important that women locally hear about and understand that many of the problems we face are faced by women and girls around the world. We are not alone; we are sisters,” said former Iowa lawmaker Bev Hannon, who serves as secretary for the Women’s Equality Coalition.

International Women’s Day has been observed in some form for more than a century and is now recognized each year on March 8. No particular group owns the observance, which brings together a wide variety of nonprofits, advocacy groups, government officials, corporations and, of course, everyday citizens.

A demonstrator takes part in a march on International Women’s Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 8, 2017. (Nacho Doce/Reuters)

Events range from organized lectures to marches, performance art to conferences, centering on gender equality for all with many highlighting long-standing inequalities. For instance, according to a report by the World Economic Forum, if improvements continue at their current place, the gender gap won’t close until 2186.

“More than a decade of data has revealed that progress is still too slow for realizing the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes,” according to researchers. In many countries, International Women’s Day is a national holiday. In Russia, men and women present flowers to the women in their lives. Chinese state officials required employers to give women a half-day off with pay, but not all employers do so.

And, here in the U.S., March is celebrated as Women’s History Month, when achievements are remembered.

Linn County attendees will hear from Aurora Costache, founder and director of the Montessori School of Marion. Costache was born and raised in Romania, and also has lived and taught in Canada, Japan and Italy.

For those hoping to learn more about the status of education for women around the world, Costache can provide firsthand knowledge and experience that is too often lacking in news reports and other research.

“Nancylee (Ziese) would be so honored to have our local International Women’s Day event as a fundraiser for the scholarship in her name. She was passionate about improving conditions for women all over the world,” said WEC President Sue Jorgensen. Ziese, who died at the end of February 2017, was a longtime member of WEC and Woman of the Year awardee, who served as a mentor and role model to many area women.

American women are especially at a pivotal moment. Awareness grows each day, traversing political divides previously thought uncrossable. People who never considered themselves activists have taken to the streets, become volunteers, stood for public office and launched businesses.

With a nod to this historic landscape, the theme for International Women’s Day is “Time Is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.” It also echoes warnings from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women that rural females are being left behind in every measure.

This is a time of empowerment for women, and plenty of work lies ahead. I hope to see you at lunch.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on Saturday, March 3, 2018. Photo credit: Nacho Doce/Reuters