The informal group "8th March Women’s Coalition”

How did it start?

The informal group “8th March Women’s Coalition” (Polish: Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca) was created in 2000. The group was founded after press report of a police raid on a gynaecology clinic in Lubliniec in southern Poland. Following an anonymous tip about an alleged abortion, the police burst into the clinic, forcibly taking a shocked woman to a compulsory gynaecological examination. The woman was not informed of her rights. A letter of protestation was sent to the media and to the Human Rights Defender (National Ombudsperson), who intervened. Subsequently, the group of women who took to the streets decided to organize annual “Manifa” protests in order to fight for equal rights of women and all other oppressed groups.

Why the 8th of March?

It was in 1908 that our great-grandmothers declared the 8th of March to be our holiday, the International Women’s Day. It is then that thousands of female textile workers went to the streets, demanding equal political and economic rights for women. The Coalition chose this day to demand equal rights and the change of discriminatory laws in Poland.

Who are we?

We are an informal and entirely independent group. Among us, there are women and men active in non-governmental organizations, informal groups, as well as the non-aligned. We finance Manifa, as well as other demonstrations and protests, ourselves – we do not receive any grants from the Polish government, the European Union, nor any other international organizations. Starting with 2009, we are also being supported by artists donating their works for the cause.

We cooperate only with non-governmental organizations, informal groups and trade unions, but not with political parties. Over the years, aside from the 8th March Women’s Coalition, a number of other organizations have been involved in organizing Manifa demonstrations – e.g. the Lesbian Coalition (LBT), the “Same o Sobie S.O.S.” association, MaMa Foundation, „Anka Zet Studio” Foundation, Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, Kobiety Kobietom Portal, Feminoteka Foundation, UFA, WZZ “Sierpień 80” trade union, WLH im. Jacka Kuronia school, Krytyka Polityczna. Later, other trade unions have also joined the cause: Ogólnopolski Związek Zawodowy

Pielęgniarek i Położnych (Nurses and Midwives’ Union), Związek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego (Teachers’ Union), as well as the Congress of Women. The list is constantly growing. Manifas have also been organized in many other Polish cities, independently organized by feminist activists and groups.

What do we want?

The primary aim of the 8th March Women’s Coalition is exposing the problems that women in Poland struggle with everyday – mothers, pregnant women, women who do not want to have children, non-heterosexual women, women in formal and informal relationships, women working for meagre pay in degrading conditions, older women, disabled women, immigrant women, women who experience violence, injustice and discrimination. We focus on women, but the problems we tackle are also experienced by men – for example by protesting “junk contracts”, we represent all the people who are afraid of their future. We do not accept the abandonment of its duties by the state! We do not accept the vision of a state where only the strongest can survive. We want a country with functional health care, where day nurseries and kindergartens are available to everyone, where the elderly and the infirm are provided with adequate care. These are not whims but basic needs. We want a state that solidarises with its citizens! We want our rights to be respected, we remind of problems and needs, we inform about the conditions of daily life of women in Poland. Because we are united, we were able to prevent many proposed laws that would impair the fate of women in Poland. However, women are still being discriminated against at work, at schools, in the spheres of health care, reproductive rights and protection from violence.

Our demands

Each year we focus on different problems. However, this is a list of the demands we regularly return to.

1. Health care. Health is not business. We want solutions that will provide the infirm, elderly and disabled with the appropriate care. We demand decent remuneration for the nurses!

2. Child care. We want the network of free state kindergartens and day nurseries, including in smaller towns and villages.

3. Parental equality. We want equal duties and rights for fathers in labour law and elsewhere. We demand equal opportunities for parental leaves and effective enforcement of alimonies.

4. Pensions. We want the state to create a social security system for widows and homemakers. Equal pensions for men and women are a necessity.

5. Labour. We demand a ban on employment practices that circumvent the labour code, the practices of outsourcing companies. No more junk contracts and forcing employees to become self-employed!

6. Civil unions. We demand formal financial safeguards and the right of inheritance for same-sex couples. It is high time for a civil unions act!

7. Housing. We demand the ban on illegal evictions to be enforced and protection for the evicted. Home is a right, not a privilege!

8. Violence. We demand the convention on preventing and combating violence against women to be ratified!

9. Reproductive rights. We demand sexual education based on facts, reimbursement of modern contraception and the right to abortion. Every woman should have the right to decide whether she wants to become a mother.

10. A secular state. We demand the secularity of the state to be respected, and state financing of religious groups to be banned.

11. Education. Knowledge should be a common good, not merchandise! We protest the privatization of schools. We do not want universities to stop being places of freedom.