International Women’s Day has deep roots. Ignited by Danish women suffragists, the day was suggested in Copenhagen in 1910; the first celebration occurred a year later throughout central Europe. Since then, International Women’s Day has spread vastly, and is now recognized as an official holiday in Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Rosalinda Guillen, along with other members of Community to Community’s Women’s Alliance Project and Cynthia Moulds of Western’s women’s studies program, brought International Women’s Day to Bellingham three years ago. A group of 15 Western Women’s Studies students in conjunction with the Community to Community staff have been organizing the event.
“It will just be a celebratory get-to-know-each-other, and to enjoy being women,” Guillen, executive director of Community to Community, said of the March 8 event.
Bellingham’s International Women’s Day celebration will begin at 4 p.m. at Maritime Heritage Park downtown. Women will meet, rally and march through downtown Bellingham, en route to the Market Depot in front of Boundary Bay. Once the marchers arrive at the Market Depot, around 5 p.m., the climatic celebratory events will occur. Live music will be performed, local women’s art will be displayed, organizations will be tabling. There will be a vagina cake contest. Of course, political and activist issues facing women will be discussed, but the main focus of the event is to celebrate women.
“This is a campus-community collaboration, and as older women what we want to do is contribute to the younger women’s perspective of feminism," Guillen said. "And being in the struggle [of women] for the long hall, you have to celebrate right along with the struggle, and we’re trying to bring some of the joy back into the struggle in this event.”
Five honorary awards will be presented to area women for their feminist endeavors. One award will be presented to Las Margaritas, a group of four women who were detained by Immigration and Customs earlier this year in Bellingham. Ellen Murphy, a local activist will also be honored, as well as Western Student Afrose Ahmed for her contributions to both Western’s campus and the surrounding communities.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “women weaving communities in a time of war.” The theme focuses not only on the war in Iraq, but also pertains to the war on immigration, as well as the war for civil rights that continues domestically. However, the theme of internationality persists, as Guillen acknowledges the fact that the United States is unique because of its racially diverse demographics.
“It’s women recognizing women . . .for us to recognize women of color and for all of us to be together speaking about peace and community is really important because we believe that’s what International Women’s Day should be about,” Guillen explained.
As said before, the real focus of the day, beyond delving into political or social issues, or recognizing outstanding members of the community, is simply indulging in and reveling in women; celebrating women. Though V-week was just three weeks ago, International Women’s Day allows the unique chance for women to be recognized, acknowledged, and to interact and simply have fun outside of the confines of campus, connecting women from the university to women of the community. And though Guillen acknowledges the struggles women still face, she acknowledges feminist resilience and the ability to persevere .
“I think each one of us has been a victim, if you listen to our stories. You know, we’ve lived all that stuff,” Guillen said from behind her large desk, a John Lennon picture behind her head. “And the idea is that we can survive that, and be happy, and do good things, and deal with issues and move forward.”
Volunteers are still needed and those wishing to help with the event on March 8 may contact Community to Community at www.foodjustice.org.