In celebrating International Women’s Day it should not be forgotten that women in many parts of the world lack the gains that have been made in the UK and other parts of the global North and have little reason to celebrate. There are countries/regions in which the most basic rights of self-determination, bodily integrity and freedom of movement are denied to women and where poverty, racism and inequality are exacerbated by male dominance. There are also many places where women are not free to campaign for their rights or where their sometimes hard won freedoms are being eroded. To give just a few examples, we have witnessed: Chinese feminists being arrested for planning an International Women’s Day campaign against sexual harassment in 2015; the reinstatement of an abortion ban in Russia and now abortion rights threatened in the USA; the lack of basic human rights for women in Saudi Arabia; unrecognised and unpunished rape and sexual assault in India; the continuing turbulent fight for women’s equality in Afghanistan; the denial of girls’ rights to education in much of rural India and many countries in Africa and the kidnapping and rape of women in the world’s conflict zones.
Such examples (and we could give many more) underline the importance of international campaigning and solidarity but, importantly, the need also to avoid imposing our own particular ideas of freedom and equality on women elsewhere. It has long been a basic tenet of the women’s movement that women everywhere have a right to their own analyses of oppression and to define their own goals and paths to liberation. In this way a dialogue can ensue, both in the academy and on the streets, that continues the struggle to be bold and effect change.