Vancouver, BC. March 3, 2012 — As if on cue, the dark clouds held off the rain for the women and their men friends and supporters who gathered in front of the downtown Vancouver Art Gallery in an early celebration of International Women’s Day.
The women’s rally was organized by Migrante BC, Migrante BC Youth, Alliance for People’s Health, Iranian Center for Peace, Freedom and Social Justice, the International League of Peoples Struggle-Canada and the Canada Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights.
In their coats, scarves and hats, women from Iran, Canada, the Philippines came (with their husbands, friends and supporters), stood with their banners and paper placards to assert and affirm the role of women in the continuing fight for justice, freedom and peace. In between speeches and messages, Yvon Raoul played his bagpipes which drew more people to stop for a bit and listen.
Parvin Ashrafi of the Iranian Centre for Peace, Freedom and Social Justice condemned in very strong terms the Islamic Republic of Iran, a “gender apartheid and misogynist regime that has imposed the most severe discriminatory laws, the most brutal and insulting rules and regulations on women and has deprived them from their basic human rights.” She also said that “What happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya should open our eyes. The women situation in these countries is worse than before under war and occupation. Islamic regimes are installed by NATO and led by US imperialism. We, the Iranian women, definitely do not wish another Islamic Republic. We want to get rid of the Islamic Republic by our struggle, without intervention. We can do it. We seek the support of the progressive forces around the world, not imperialist capitalist government like Canada and the U.S. “
Juliette of Migrante BC, a migrant worker from the Philippines, knocked down the stereotypes of Filipino workers with these words: “As Filipino immigrant women, we refuse to have society define us by what we do, because that is not who we are. We push strollers, we serve coffee, we nurse the sick and we care for the elderly – yes– but that is not the sum of who we are. We are workers and we are activists. We demand decent wages, better working conditions and workers’ benefits. We march in the streets, rally in places like the Art Gallery, and we educate ourselves in our rights and responsibilities as migrants and as workers. We organize! We take our place in the midst of the struggle for migrant rights, for justice, for peace.”
With her young baby cuddled up in a carrier against her chest, Martha Roberts, midwife and member of the Alliance for People’s Health called on the women to be brave and to stand on the side of justice: “From Palestine, to the Philippines, to the unceded Coast Salish territory upon which we stand today, women are at the forefront of liberation struggles that ultimately seek to oust capitalism and replace it with collaboration, cooperation, and a society that values health, the fulfillment of human potential, and the survival of our planet. “It is time for women to rise up against imperialist wars of aggression, profiteering, and economic exploitation!”
In marking the 101 years of IWD in which women all over the world have marched into the streets to honour Women’s Day every March, Erie from the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights asked everyone to “remember that we stand on the shoulders of women who have struggled and faced great odds to make our world a better place” and to remember our sisters and the ties that bind all of us together, as we continue to resist crises, war, occupation and imperialism. As sisters, we hold hands in solidarity in our rightful places, which is in the forefront of the struggle. “
Several speeches and messages came from the crowd. And after a little more than an hour, the women (and the men) rolled up the banners, folded the placards, took last minute group photos of the 2012 rally and started to leave the Art Gallery. And right on cue, the rain started to come down. A perfect end to a rally.
Click here for more photos of IWD in Canada