When over a million European women rallied for the right of women to vote, work and hold public office nearly 100 years ago, little did they know that their actions would give rise to an annual International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day (IWD) will be celebrated by women all over the world on March 6 and commemorative events will run across Australia from today until Sunday. As part of these celebrations, the Minister for Women’s Affairs, Minister Maxine Morand MP, will announce the 2009 Victorian Honour Roll of Women inductees who will be awarded for their lasting contributions to women in Victoria. While IWD traditionally celebrates women’s achievements, looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, the Office of Women’s Policy celebrations will focus on the UN theme for 2009 – United to end violence against women.

“I think that this week is an opportunity to acknowledge the valuable role that all kinds of women play in our society, and to highlight the rich history and cultural heritage that a lot of women bring to our community,” says councillor of Whittlesea, Kris Pavlidis. “It is also an opportunity for women across generations to be able to learn from each other so that younger women, especially from a culturally and linguistically diverse background, can share their experiences with women of an older age group that may not have had the same opportunities when they first arrived to Australia”. Pavlidis reflects on her mother’s story, who came to Australia over 50 years ago with ambitious goals that were never realised.

“Back then, those who arrived as young women were usually sponsored by a male relative and their aim was to marry her off as soon as possible and that’s what happened to my mother. So when I became the first Greek Australian woman to become Mayor, she was really proud. A lot of women have a frustration that they carry, and to see other women in forthcoming generations move ahead is great.”

Suzie Antoniou-Bunn, Director of the Craig Family Centre, a non profit community organisation in Ashburton, will also be celebrating International Women’s Day through a lunch and dance event on March 4 at the centre address, 7 Samarinda Avenue, Ashburton.

“It will be a day when we can all stop and enjoy each others’ company and share our cultures through food and dance,” she says. “Our event will start off with Greek dancing and end with Afghan dancing”. If you are interested in joining in the celebrations, please contact organiser Yvonne Kyriakos on 9885 7789. Some other highlights of this week include the WIRE and YMCA luncheon on March 2 which aims to challenge a toxic body image. A Women in Parliament day will be held on March 4 as well as a market that will showcase lively entertainment goodies from women’s organisations and fabulous products from women-run enterprises at QVWC and QV square in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne on March 6. Two days of women’s pampering will include relaxation massages, facials, Bollywood dancing and more in Sunbury and Craigieburn.

For more details and event listings relating to IWD, visit the website at http://www.women.vic.gov.au