The French feminist Simone de Beauvoir attended Belgium's first Women's Day

Women’s Day turns 50

The 50th National Women’s Day was organised in Leuven (Flemish Brabant) today.  It’s exactly 50 years ago that the first National Women’s Day was staged at the Passage 44 conference centre in Brussels. 

Thousands of participants turned up for the first edition.  “Until then women were not organised” says Marijke Colle, who was there at the time.  “It was a great starting point”.

Delegates were able to attend talks with international activists including Germaine Greer and Simone de Beauvoir.  It’s De Beauvoir’s fault that Belgium’s Women’s Day is organised on 11 November.  That was the only day she still had free in her agenda.

“Until then there were no feminist activists” Marijke Colle remembers. “Women were active in student organisations and unions, but were not organised as women.  Women often felt frustrated in the organisations in which they were active.  Too often they had to play second fiddle.  We were good enough to make the sandwiches and write the minutes, but not good enough to hold the speeches.”

“This frustration motivated me to attend the Brussels meeting.  You saw how women were very eager to organise themselves as women and what energy they possessed.”

“A lot has been achieved over the years” is Marijke Colle’s verdict on the event “but the challenges of today are almost identical to those of half a century ago” she notes.

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