Returning to the Radical Roots of International Women’s Day: Until the day that we are all free.

5 min readMar 8, 2024

by Josephine Kamara - Head of Media, Advocacy and Communications, Purposeful

This International Women’s Day, the stakes feel higher than they have felt in our living memory. The shallow activism of the girl-boss-ing lean-in generation never more hollow or redundant. In moments like this, we draw strength from the mothers of our movements. Women like Clara Zetkin, born in 1857, who founded International Women’s Day to acknowledge the central role of working-class women in the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

Clara was the first European socialist to fully articulate the linkages between proletariat women and the fight against rising fascism on the European Continent. A Century later we sit writing from a different continent, and yet the echoes of those past days feel never more present. We thought the tide had turned. But hard-won gains — struggled for over the last century — are disappearing with such rapid speed, it seems we are back to a place again where even the most basic of our fundamental rights can no longer be assured.

Everywhere we look, we see our people struggling against a tide that is so fierce, and so well financed — our very bodies, our very lives, the souls of our nations are at risk. From the anti-LGBTQI bill passed last week in Ghana, to the latest attempt to decriminalise Female Genital Mutilation just four days ago in the Gambia, it’s all part of a right-wing fundamentalist agenda that is coming for our lives everywhere.

As an organisation committed to building power with adolescent girl activists, we see these forces play out in particularly sinister ways at the unique intersection of age and gender — with girls on the absolute frontlines of the so-called-family values agenda. From FGM, to Child Marriage, Comprehensive Sexuality Education, even the very right to education, childbirth, birth-spacing, land ownership, the right to divorce, the right to hold property, the right to live, breathe, dance, sing, take up space, be loud, be defiant, be a child, be a leader. They are coming for it all.

Across the world, as violent wars are waged and climate catastrophes explode, crisis is compounding the experiences of gendered poverty, violence, and isolation that girls already navigate in their everyday lives. We know girls and young feminists, at the intersection of multiple marginalised identities, are disproportionately impacted by the poly-crises exploding everywhere, from Sudan to DRC, from Haiti to El Salvador, Armenia, Papua New Guinea, Yemen, and Palestine. So many places we could name. None of this is random. These seemingly isolated issues, these geographically diffused crises birthed by the same forces of oppression, exploitation, and extraction. All connected — all rooted in the structures of global capitalism and colonialism.

And so, the only way to win? The only way it has always been, as Clara wrote it then:

“We must not combat fascism in the way of the reformists, who beseeched them to “leave me alone, and then I’ll leave you alone — that will surely fail. All that matters to fascism is that they encounter a class-conscious proletarian, and then they club him to the ground. That is why workers must come together for struggle without distinctions of party or trade-union affiliation.”

In short, together. In shared political commitment, in shared struggle, in that way that a feminist politic has always led us towards — rooted in a transformational love ethic, towards the healing and justice and shared humanity of all people everywhere. A return to the fullest meaning of solidarity as described by one of the fathers of the anti-colonial struggle on our African Continent, Samora Machel. A solidarity that;

“is not an act of charity, but mutual aid between forces fighting for the same objective”.

We see this mutual aid at work everywhere that there are girls. Across Sierra Leone, in the places hidden — or shut out from — the mainstream Aid agenda, of the Freetown elites. Girls who are organising with each other, saving together, caring for their children together. In the absence of formalised social security nets are constructing their own horizontal networks of care, holding perpetrators to account, and imagining alternatives to lives of a gendered poverty that is so determined to crush them. And yet somehow cannot crush them. They are our portal out of here.

We see this active solidarity at play too in the ways our people are threading connections with struggles in seemingly far-flung places. The way our movements are showing up. We saw it just last week in a hall in Freetown full of feminist activists — nearly 100 people strong, the youngest 18, the oldest 75 — all gathered to name the horrors of genocide at work in Gaza, and to make explicit connections with our own brutal history of enslavement, colonial expansion and a civil war fuelled by rampant capitalist extraction — a war whose scars we still bare now. Suddenly, as we deconstructed and reconstructed, Palestine did not feel so far away. None of it does. A thin thread that binds us together. Centuries in the making. Spun in tears and blood and horror. But in something else too. In silk and song and those things that cosmically connect us, that speak to the core of our shared humanity.

And so, whilst in that gathering, we may have felt overwhelmed with despair, living in a small country battling its own domestic struggles, the resilience and resistance of all people who refuse to be crushed by the crushing weight of all of this — that’s what keeps us moving.

On this International Women’s Day, and every day, we’ll continue to show what’s possible when we directly resource the resistance efforts of girls and young feminists and accompany them in determining their own roadmaps to liberation. And we’ll call in our mighty ancestors, as we join all those everywhere who loudly declare that our freedom will never be complete without the freedom of all peoples.

Our struggle is one struggle, until the day that we are all free.




A feminist movement-building hub that amplifies girls’ voices, resources their resistance, builds solidarity and catalyses collaborative philanthropy.