Choose to Challenge, International Women’s Day, March 8
By Co-chair Beth Scroggin, Green Party of Pennsylvania
PHILADELPHIA – Welcome to March, a month during which we celebrate growth and progress! Here in the Northern Hemisphere, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of spring, when plants and animals emerge from a long, cold winter, reminding us all of our natural resiliency. Additionally, countries around the world (regardless of hemisphere) observe International Women’s Day on March 8, an occasion whose roots extend back over a century, beginning with a declaration of the day from the Socialist Party of America.
Originally created as an opportunity for women to press their political demands, International Women’s Day has expanded to be a time to celebrate women’s achievements as well. In my mind, these purposes intermingle: as we celebrate women’s accomplishments in the social, economic, scientific, cultural, and political spheres, we recognize that we women build upon the achievements of those who came before us. Women who have fought for, and who continue to fight for gender equity (one of the Green Party’s 10 Key Values) clear space and create paths for the women of the future to succeed in the areas of their choosing.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Choose to Challenge.” Ironically, this March marks the one-year anniversary of the challenge none of us chose: the day we reached a collective realization that we were in the midst of a global pandemic and life as we knew it was completely upended. Numerous articles have addressed the ways in which women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Essential workers are more likely to be women, an unfortunate reality during a pandemic, but especially so in a country which devalues its essential workers in every possible way. Pay (particularly for women) and leave (particularly for child-rearing purposes) is severely inadequate.
Hospitals are dangerously understaffed; therefore, frontline workers are overworked and exhausted. Adding insult to injury, our government’s despicably atrocious handling of the pandemic led to hospitals being overwhelmed with patients. Schools and childcare facilities have had to determine how to care for and educate children with little to no guidance from government officials. Pressure mounted from the general public’s desperation to send their children back to school so that they could go back to work, because our government provided pathetically inconsequential economic support to families. Additionally, our government did almost nothing to support small businesses, and some of the hardest-hit industries (restaurants, childcare facilities, beauty salons, hotels) are disproportionately staffed by women.
Aside from our workplace challenges, we women are also more likely to be homemakers and caretakers, desperately trying to keep our homes in order for our families, who are spending a lot more time there. Studies have shown that even in two-parent households in which both parents work full-time jobs, women do more housework and spend more hours on childcare, which is no different during a pandemic. As a single mother and public school teacher, I certainly find myself asking, “How can I choose to challenge anything when so much challenge is being thrust upon me now more than ever?”
Women across the world, as well as those right here in Pennsylvania, offer inspiration to others as they choose to challenge what currently exists and push us toward what could and should be. Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand (for whom the Green Party provided confidence and supply), challenged the citizens of New Zealand to follow quarantine measures during the pandemic, inspiring them with her empathy and supporting public health professionals by supplying what they needed. Similarly, Green Party Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdottir challenged Iceland’s citizens to take collective responsibility for fighting COVID-19 while providing free testing and equal access to healthcare with a strong public health system. Even in the midst of the pandemic, 18-year-old activist Greta Thunberg continued to challenge world leaders to take immediate action against climate change, and refused to settle for anything less than what is necessary to preserve our planet for future generations.
Here in Pennsylvania, Cheri Honkala continues to challenge local officials to end homelessness and poverty, while inspiring others to join her Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign to fight for what all people deserve. All across our state, women are choosing to challenge corporations who are building pipelines in their backyards. In Huntingdon County, Ellen and Elise Gerhart have been directly interfering with Sunoco’s construction of a pipeline on their property. The construction of that same pipeline is being challenged in Chester County by the women-led Uwchlan Safety Coalition and Mama Bear Brigade. In central PA, Malinda Clatterbuck and her husband lead Lancaster Against Pipelines, which fights against the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline. While all of the aforementioned women are choosing different challenges in different areas, what unites them is the choice to fight to save people’s lives.
This month, I challenge myself and all women to stand for the Green Party’s 10 Key Values, whether through direct action, raising awareness, donating to a worthy cause, supporting a local campaign, or volunteering to help us build the Green Party of Pennsylvania. However, on those days when you’re fighting feelings of inadequacy despite giving your best effort to all you hold dear, challenge those negative feelings and be proud of yourself for all that you do and all that you are.
The Green Party of Pennsylvania (GPPA) is an independent political party that stands in opposition to the two corporate parties. GPPA candidates promote public policy based on the Green Party’s Four Pillars: grassroots democracy, nonviolence, ecological wisdom, and social justice/equal opportunity. For further information about GPPA, please visit www.gpofpa.org. Please follow GPPA on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
For additional information, please see:
Ten Key Values, Green Party of the United States
International Women’s Day, Choose to Challenge