Voices in Taiwan Rally Together to March for Women’s Rights for International Women’s Day

By Carrie Kellenberger

International Women’s Day is quickly approaching, with several organizations in Taipei gearing up to host events to help women share their stories. Traditionally celebrated on March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD) allows all of us to reflect on the importance of learning from and connecting with others, so that women can feel more empowered to make better decisions that will reflect positive changes in their lives.

IWD events in Taipei will focus on women’s issues that require change, while also highlighting perceptions about gender equality in Taiwan. Women from a diverse range of backgrounds all over Taiwan and from all corners of the world will be sharing their experiences at work, at home, and in their day-to-day lives.

Historically, women in Taiwan have been hesitant to speak out about their experiences; however change has happened slowly but surely over the last five years. As worldwide recognition of International Women’s Day grows bigger each year, events have become more professionally executed and defined, with expert speakers addressing a number of issues that women face, whether it’s in business, health, equal pay rights, or domestic violence.

Educating and involving women in all aspects of life is too important to be ignored, but how can we make our voices heard? How can we encourage each other to speak up?

Sue Babcock, the founder and one of the organizers of Taipei’s Women in Conversation events, encourages women to reach out to each other and share their experiences. “Sharing stories and experiences is essential for empowering women; especially stories about women doing extraordinary things under adverse conditions. When you hear their inspiring stories, it pushes you to be motivated and to keep trying to make a difference.”

Crystal Liu, co-founder of Women’s March Taiwan, saw a need to create a grassroots community organization in Taiwan in response to other world-wide March women’s events.

Liu says that “Many people in Taiwan don’t think that gender inequality still exists here. They might think that since we already have a female president, why should we continue to support women’s rights?”

Women’s March Taiwan was launched on March 8th, 2017 in response to a worldwide outpouring of support for women’s rights and the rights of freedom and justice for all people.

The 2019 WoMen Wave is the 3rd Annual International Women’s Day March organized by Women’s March Taiwan. Liu states that, “WoMen is stylized with a capital M because the word “women” in Mandarin means “us,” which emphasizes the inclusive nature of our events. The purpose of Women’s March Taiwan is to unite diverse communities, such as local and international women’s organizations, while empowering women and raising awareness for gender equality in Taiwan.”

In addition to its annual Women’s March, Women’s March Taiwan also hosts monthly WoMenTalk events, lectures, workshops, and various fun and interactive activities. Women’s March Taiwan unites people of all genders, nationalities, and generations, and provides a platform for women’s rights in Taiwan.

Darice Chang, a Taiwanese-American writer and translator residing in Taipei, uses her voice “to model self- motivation, leadership, and excellence through speaking and representation at vegan promotion and human rights events,” as well as through her work and through her volunteer activities.

Chang represents Women’s March Taiwan as an ambassador by leading workshops organized by the Taiwan Women’s Development Council and the American Institute in Taiwan, stating that she “motivates those around me to speak up against discrimination by sharing my own experiences and encouraging girls and women to voice their thoughts. As Taiwan is a Sinitic society, I have adapted these methods to be more culturally appropriate, while holding fast to my belief that polite yet direct and persistent voices will be recognized.”

Chang points out the obvious need for men and women to become allies, but women must also take up the responsibility to be strong and to encourage others. She urges everyone to “speak up immediately, persistently, and confidently when you see others being discriminated against, stereotyped, or belittled due to gender – this is equal for both men and women, especially since toxic masculinity is such a problem in our current society.”

Learning more about these types of issues is what we hope to see and hear about on International Women’s Day from dozens of women who are experts in their fields of study and work.

Each event is expected to bring in large groups of women and men from Taiwan’s local and international communities. This year’s International Women’s Day hashtag is #BalanceforBetter, which advocates for a gender-balanced world in government, media coverage, health care, a gender-balance of employees, and more gender-balance across the board for social, economic, cultural, and political achievements.

Women’s rights should include the collective endeavors of individuals who care about human rights.

The #MeToo movement, which started in October 2017 following the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations, has also taken a step forward in 2019. There was a distinct lack of information about the #MeToo movement when it hit Taiwan, and there was a corresponding lack of information in Chinese. International women were sharing their #MeToo stories in Taiwan, but the silence from Taiwanese women on this matter was glaringly obvious.

This year brings us the #WeToo hashtag, which is inclusive of everyone. The 2019 hashtag for #WeToo encourages everyone, women and men, to speak up and share their experiences about assault, harassment, and domestic violence. It is our hope that women and men will use their voices in Taiwan on International Women’s Day to celebrate women sharing their stories, if they are inclined to share. When this happens, we hope to see a corresponding movement of women and men sharing their stories in Chinese.

In the week leading up to March 8th, 2019, let’s celebrate the women in Taiwan who are driving positive change in their communities and organizations, in their careers, and in each other. Are you wondering where you can share your story? Check out the following events that are happening in Taipei from March 7th to March 9th and please join in the discussion, march towards women’s rights, and help us celebrate the achievements of women around the world.

Carrie Kellenberger is a Canadian expat living in New Taipei for the last 14 years. In addition to running her own business in Taiwan, Carrie is a travel writer, a volunteer with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan, and a health advocate for the chronically ill in Asia and in North America. Read more of her work at www.myseveralworlds.com.