International Women's Day march, Canada. International Women's Day march, Canada. Photo: UN Women on Flickr

For International Women’s Day, Counterfire asked women activists their views on the state of the struggle for women’s liberation. We are publishing a selection of answers over the weekend.


What do you think are the main challenges that women face today, and how should we take them up?

The systemic issue of treating women as commodities within capitalist systems underscores a broader societal problem that impacts both women and men. Addressing this issue is not just a matter of women’s rights but benefits society as a whole by fostering equality and fairness.

Which women, past or present, particularly inspire you?

Kamala Das, the Indian English writer, serves as a poignant example of challenging entrenched norms surrounding women’s sexuality, particularly in the conservative landscape of India during the 90s. Her bravery in questioning traditional definitions of womanhood and sexuality continues to inspire and provoke thought even today.

Why are we still having to fight for womens’ rights more than one hundred years on and how can we make International Womens’ Day more powerful? 

Despite significant advancements in the fight for women’s rights, it remains an ongoing struggle with no definitive end in sight. Women have been advocating for their rights and occupying positions of leadership throughout history, illustrating the enduring nature of the fight for equality.

How can we campaign most effectively for women’s liberation? 

To truly advance gender equality, it’s essential to amplify women’s voices and provide them with equal opportunities. This means creating an environment where women are not only heard but also empowered to pursue their aspirations without limitations imposed by gender biases or stereotypes. Such efforts not only benefit women but contribute to building a more just and equitable society for all.


International Women’s Day is not just about the struggles of the past. It is about the recognition of women fighting now and this year it’s every single mother and child bearing the brunt of Israel’s brutal onslaught in Gaza that must be remembered. Latest UN statistics show that almost 30 thousand Palestinians have been killed in Gaza – 70 percent of those killed are said to be women and children and an estimated nearly 1 million women and girls have been displaced. Women are the first victims of this genocide and they yet again are the leading forces for peace within the occupied territory but also on the streets across the globe – as women world wide stand for Palestine. 

It must be said too, that as Israel clamps down on the provision of medical aid, shelter and clothes women’s and girls’ special needs such as sanitary and hygiene products have fallen desperately at the wayside, adding to their plight and destitution. Despite all this it is women of Palestine leading the way and despite what the mainstream media say – it is actually women that are leading the marches and mobilising on the streets across the globe. Women must stop paying for the cost of war and women must stop being erased from the liberation and peace movement. Tomorrow marks the 10th National demonstration for Palestine and we will march on International Women’s day for the women of Palestine.


Which women inspire me?

Zara Sultana, Belle Ribeiro-Addy, Dawn Butler, of course the mother of them all, Diane Abbott. These capable, brave, feisty and (mostly) young women give me hope for the future. They face down the most awful abuse, both inside and outside Parliament, undefended by their own party leadership – but they persist. Also Sayeeda Warsi, continuing to make the case for all Muslims despite hostility and abuse from her own party.   


What do you think are the main challenges that women face today, and how should we take them up?

There are so many challenges following 14 years of Tory rule. But two challenges are particularly important to me as a retired NHS nurse and midwife.

Firstly the right to control our fertility. This right is fundamental to women’s liberation and many battles have been fought world-wide for these rights. The scandalous Tory funding squeeze on the NHS is eroding these rights. 

Contraception is much harder to access due to the lack of funding in primary health care, the closure of sexual health clinics (particularly young people’s clinics) and the privatisation of sexual health services. In many areas more expensive methods of contraception are rationed and there are long waits. In a massively underfunded NHS these services can be forgotten about but the lack of them makes a huge difference to women’s lives.

Going hand in hand with the right to contraception is is the importance of decriminalising abortion. It’s scandalous that in 2023 six women faced prosecution for ending their pregnancies outside of the current scope of the law. The 1967 Abortion Act is in urgent need of modernisation to keep up with the changes in medical technology and the advent of home abortion pills. We know that most people support modernisation of the law. We also need an extension of NHS abortion services.

The lack of abortion rights remains a huge issue internationally and as socialists we must continue to fight for our reproductive rights.

Which women, past or present, particularly inspire you?

From the past, Sylvia Pankhurst, suffragist, socialist and campaigner for peace and an end to imperialist war. I would love to have heard her speak.

In the present, the women of Gaza.

How can we campaign most effectively for women’s liberation? 

We should campaign with all women including trans women. And with as many men as possible. 

We should always find ways to encourage unity in struggles.

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