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International Women's Day may see activism jolt from tumult over Trump

Observed on March 8, the worldwide event has a renewed sense of political purpose in the U.S. this year, experts and advocates say.

A scene of the Women's March crowd in Boston, where more than 175,000 people gatheDerek Kouyoumjian / Metro

A day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump, millions of women flooded the streets across the United States and around the world in political protest. They made their voices heard — along with men — as part of the historic Women’s March. The turnout in Washington was one of the largest demonstrations in U.S. history.

On March 8, to coincide with the annual International Women’s Day, some of the same organizers are staging a different kind of protest throughout the U.S., but one they hope will send just as strong a message.

This one is being called “A Day Without A Woman.” Organizers are encouraging women to take the day off from “paid and unpaid labor.”

Although separate from the actual International Women’s Day events, it is in keeping with the spirit, they said.

“On International Women's Day, March 8, women and our allies will act together for equity, justice and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people, through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity,” organizers wrote.

RELATED COVERAGE: Women lead unprecedented worldwide mass protests against Trump

International Women’s Day got its start in 1908, when 15,000 women marched in New York City, demanding higher wages and voting rights.

This year, on Wednesday, there are hundreds of official events scheduled in more than 65 countries to celebrate the day throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, there will be 150 events. The occasion continues to expand, and in addition to extending across oceans, it has been adopted by the United Nations and also includes corporate sponsors.

Each year, there is a different campaign theme to International Women’s Day to address topical issues. This year’s theme is, “Be Bold for Change.” Organizers are asking supporters to "Call on the masses or call on yourself to help forge a better working world — a more gender inclusive world."

Be Bold for Change is a statement that could have been applied to the marches that took place in January, and to the upcoming call to action next week, said Michael Bronski, a professor at Harvard’s Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality department. He described the idea of “A Day Without A Woman” as a “bold political statement.”

As did Tia Gordon, a spokeswoman for the global nonprofit Catalyst, which aims to accelerate the progress of women in the workplace. Catalyst is an official charity partner of the International Women’s Day organization.

“Women are almost half the talent pool globally, so that means they're half the brains. Any woman who chooses to strike will affect a business and their bottom line,” Gordon said.

Women also perform 75 percent of all unpaid work, including childcare and eldercare, along with cleaning, cooking, and other domestic responsibilities. If unpaid work was counted toward a country’s Gross Domestic Product, estimates are that it would add as much as $10 trillion in annual output, she said.

Bronski said he anticipates a higher interest in activism and awareness on the part of women and men, because of International Women’s Day.

The level of activism created by the Women’s March — fueled in large part by outrage over Trump’s election —has energized this year’s International Women’s Day, Bronski added. “There’s no question that they’ll be connected,” he said. “It will instigate more people and challenge more people to be involved.” He added, “I could easily see this [year] going down in history books, no matter how we want to measure it.”

 

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