10 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day

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Tomorrow is March 8. In other words, it’s International Women’s Day. For those of you wondering how to mark this auspicious day, I’ve rounded up a few of my favorite ideas. Feel free to add your own in the comments.

1. Attend the 11th annual International Women’s Day Fair and Luncheon. Hosted by WorldChicago, the International Trade Club of Chicago and the Union League Club of Chicago, the annual luncheon this year welcomes Gatorade President North America Sarah Robb O’Hagan, who will speak on “From the Sidelines to the Workplace: The Increasing Relevancy of Female Leadership.” As a bonus, Chicago femme favorite Alison Cuddy, from WBEZ, serves as master of events. The luncheon is Thursday, March 8, so get your tickets now. (TCW is a media sponsor of this event.)

2. Talk to a congressperson about women’s rights. The so-called “war on women” is tearing a destructive path through women’s rights across the country. In 2011, a record 92 anti-choice bills were passed in 24 states; 2012 is ambitiously trying to surpass that achievement. These range from bills mandating ultrasounds, waiting periods and visits to Crisis Pregnancy Centers; to de-funding women’s health clinics; to, of course, allowing employers eliminate insurance coverage of health services, including birth control, that they find morally objectionable.

Here in Illinois, the House is debating two bills in the Agriculture Committee, which has inspired the slogan “Women are Not Livestock.” The Ultrasound Mandate Prior to Abortion bill would require physicians to offer to perform an ultrasound prior to an abortion and show the image to the patient; ultrasounds are medically unnecessary in the first trimester and could cost a patient an extra $200-$1200. (I’m told the bill may mandate the now infamous transvaginal ultrasounds for women seeking abortions in their first trimester of pregnancy.) The ASTC Regulations for Abortion Facilities bill would needlessly change regulations for clinics providing even non-surgical abortions. The additional costs to clinics to meet these unnecessary standards has a high potential to shutter health clinics that serve the women who depend on them for health services. (Planned Parenthood alone estimates it would cost an additional $1-$2 million to go through ASTC licensing process for six Illinois health centers, four of which perform no surgeries.) If you’re opposed to any of this legislation, let your representatives at the state and federal level know: call them, email them, write them, petition them.

3. Attend the TCW’s Top Singles Party on Friday, March 9. The party benefits the TCW Foundation, which awards grants to underfunded Chicago charities (like these) serving at-risk women and children. In the U.S., less than 8 percent of foundation dollars go toward organizations serving women and children, though they are the most likely population to be living in poverty. There are still tickets left–get them here.

4. Get educated about women’s economic parity, then do something about it. This is a good place to start.

5. Vote for women. The Illinois primary is on Tuesday, March 20. More women in elected office means better government and stronger communities for everyone. Here’s why.

6. Buy Girl Scout cookies. The Girl Scouts of the USA celebrates their 100th anniversary on Monday, March 12. Though the Girl Scouts has recently come under some strange, misguided fire (from an Indiana politician claiming they are in cahoots with Planned Parenthood and later retracting that statement, to being criticized for being so all-inclusive as to accept transgendered children into their membership), they are an amazing organization that promotes “courage, confidence and character” in their members. Not to mention skills like financial literacy and media skepticism. Your cookie purchase supports the organization — and is delicious. If you’re downtown on Monday, join the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana for a celebration in Daley Plaza. I’ve been promised there will be cookies available at the Girl Scouts’ nearby offices following the public gathering.

7. Appreciate a woman in your life. Tell your mom, daughter, girlfriend, wife, best friend, niece, sister, coworker, or even just that female barista who always gets your latte just right that you appreciate everything she does for you and the people around her. Even better, do something nice for her. Just because.

8. Volunteer your time or donate. There is no shortage of amazing organizations in Chicago that serve women. Is your passion education? Mentorship? Ending sexual violence? Reproductive health rights? The rights of women and girls in developing countries? Pick a cause and then give, give, give in whatever way you can.

9. Learn about the history of International Women’s Day. Do you know what the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire is? Or the day’s roots in the Labor Movement? Or why empowering rural women can help end hunger and poverty (the United Nation’s 2012 International Women’s Day theme)?

10. Take care of your health. As women, we often take care of ourselves last. So on March 8, relax. Breathe. Go do some yoga. Take a run. Eat some Girl Scout cookies. Or take 5 minutes to finally make that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off. Whatever it is, do something kind for yourself today.

Happy International Women’s Day!

Cassandra_Gaddo

About Cassandra A. Gaddo

Cassandra A. Gaddo is managing director of Step Up Women's Network in Chicago. A passionate advocate for gender equality and the advancement of women and girls, she is also a board member of Rape Victim Advocates, and a Young Professionals Ambassador for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. She writes and speaks about local, national and international women's issues, including in her blog, "Twice As Well."