International Women's Day (March 8)
|Year group:||Year 7, Year 8, Year 9, Year 10, Year 11, Post 16|
|Cross curricular:||Religious Education|
|QCA scheme of work:||Celebrating human rights - citizenship activities for the whole school, Celebrating human rights - citizenship activities for the whole school|
Interactive whiteboard, to "fly in" the statistics (optional)
This assembly marks International Women's Day (March 8) and looks at why it is still needed. Specific case histories encourage students to think about women's rights today, from Bosnia to Kenya. The assembly aims:
- to highlight the continuing need to improve the rights of girls and women at home and abroad
- to encourage students to empathise with girls and women whose rights are denied
- and to recognise that women's progress in business and public life is
still impeded by men.
(Teacher takes the role of devil's advocate, someone who does not think it is worth having a day dedicated to women.)
Today is March 8. This means that in schools, all over Britain, assemblies will be delivered on the subject of International Women's Day. But some people say that there is no need to have an international day for women. Women are equal to men aren't they? They have the vote, don't they? This isn't the 19th century. Huge steps were made during the last century. In many countries women have won the right to vote and take part in government. They have economic independence. In many countries, it is against the law to discriminate on the grounds of gender.
Of course, women should be appreciated and celebrated, but surely, we could
spend our time on more important things?
Hear some responses to the introductory question from the students. The following response is designed to be delivered by a group of students. Alternatively the teacher can come out of role and deliver this section.
Nowhere in the world can women claim to have the same rights and opportunities as men. While it is now accepted that women should have the vote, this has not changed the lives of millions of women in many parts of the world.
- Only 25 women have been elected heads of state or government in the 20th century.
- 14.1% of representatives elected to parliaments around the world are women.
- Of the 189 highest ranking diplomats at the United Nations, just 11 are women.
- The majority of the world's 1.3 billion poor are women.
- On average, women receive between 30% and 40% less pay than men for the same work.
- Women comprise two-thirds of the world's one billion illiterate population.
- There are 130 million children worldwide who are not in school. Two out of three of these are girls.
- The UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 75% of people displaced due to war are women.
Right now, a woman's rights are being violated and a woman's life is being devastated.
- In 1994, Rwanda experienced a genocide that left 300,000 children without parents. 60,000 children had to become the providers for their brothers and sisters. Of these, two-thirds were young girls.
- In Bosnia, economic recovery after the war has been slow. Women are forced to find jobs to provide for their families. Most of them have no training. Women are unable to inherit land or property and married women cannot pursue employment without permission from their husbands.
- Every year 14,000 Russian women die at the hands of their husbands or other relatives. 30% of married women are regularly subjected to physical violence.
Now students present case histories where women's rights have been violated. (Each case history should be delivered by a different student if this is practical.)
- A significant number of women in Kenya are treated as second-class citizens. In some communities, a woman whose husband has died is "inherited" by his brother or close relative. She has no choice, no right to refuse this new marriage or sexual relations with her new "husband". When Mary's husband died in 1993 she was "inherited" by her husband's elder brother. She needed his help to support her six children. Since 1998, she says her new "husband" has regularly beaten her and forced her to have sex with him. She has never been to the police, because she is certain that they would not investigate her case or protect her.
Countless women in many parts of the world are raped and subjected to other forms of abuse and sexual violence by the authorities who should be protecting them.
- In 1999, two Kurdish young women were arrested by Turkish police authorities on suspicion of terrorism. While in police custody, the girls were interrogated, tortured and forced to give false confessions. They were blindfolded. One was not allowed to sit or lie down to sleep or use the toilet. She was forced to strip naked and remain in a cold room. She was beaten on her head, genitals, buttocks and breasts and forced to sit on a wet floor for long periods. She was threatened that she would be killed and her mother raped if she did not co-operate.
Everywhere, women continue to be victims of violence. Rape and domestic violence are significant causes of disability and death among women of reproductive age worldwide.
The teacher who introduced the assembly explains that the United Nations General Assembly celebrates this International Women's Day:
- to recognise that peace and social progress require the active participation and equality of women
- and to acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security.
It is a day when women come together to celebrate and look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development. But it is also a day where we recognise that all over the world women's rights are still being violated in horrific ways. The struggle is a difficult one and it is certainly far from over.
So (today / on March 8) we celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights. We also remind ourselves that the battle for real equality and freedom still needs to be fought. This assembly has shown a tiny snapshot of the situation of some women in some parts of the world. There are many other stories.
We can all agree on one thing: Women's rights are human rights.
The assembly is suitable for delivery to the whole school by one teacher on their own; it can also be adapted to suit a group of students. Preparation and rehearsal would be useful. The assembly is structured to encourage further research by students. It could either form the starting point of a whole-school project leading up to March 8, International Women's Day, or be delivered on that day.
It is intended as a stark reminder that women's rights should have a prominent place on any human rights agenda. Some of the case histories are distressing, and teachers are advised to scrutinise the content before including them.
- Each case history can be researched and further developed (see Amnesty International website for updates).
- Include the history of International Women's Day (see resources section).
- Reduce the number of case histories.
- Cut the teacher-in-role introduction.
For background to International Women's Day
Amnesty International's work with women
Advancement and empowerment of women
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