"My desire is to see the emancipation of women at every level of development to enable them to contribute and benefit from the socio-economic and political progress of the country. Women's vital role of promoting peace in the family, the country and the world at large must be acknowledged. And to do this, they must be empowered politically to equip them adequately for the challenges of critically identifying and assessing solutions for the betterment of society."
About International Women’s Day (8 March)
International Women’s Day has been observed since in the early 1900’s, a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women’s oppression and inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate NWD on the last Sunday of February until 1913.
In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named a Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was the result.
Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was honoured the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This disastrous event drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events. 1911 also saw women’s ‘Bread and Roses’ campaign.
On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. In 1913 following discussions, International Women’s Day was transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for International Wommen’s Day ever since. In 1914 further women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity.
On the last Sunday of February, Russian women began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death over 2 million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders the women continued to strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was 8 March.
1918 – 1999
Since its birth in the socialist movement, International Women’s Day has grown to become a global day of recognition and celebration across developed and developing countries alike. For decades, IWD has grown from strength to strength annually. For many years the United Nations has held an annual IWD conference to coordinate international efforts for women’s rights and participation in social, political and economic processes. 1975 was designated as ‘International Women’s Year’ by the United Nations. Women’s organisations and governments around the world have also observed IWD annually on 8 March by holding large-scale events that honour women’s advancement and while diligently reminding of the continued vigilance and action required to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life.
By the new millennium, International Women's Day activity around the world had stalled in many countries. The world had moved on and feminism wasn't a popular topic. International Women's Day needed re-ignition. There was urgent work to do - battles had not been won and gender parity had still not been achieved.
The global internationalwomensday.com digital hub for everything IWD was launched to re-energize the day as an important platform to celebrate the successful achievements of women and to continue calls for accelerating gender parity. Each year the IWD website sees vast traffic and is used by millions of people and organizations all over the world to learn about and share IWD activity. The IWD website is made possible each year through support from corporations committed to driving gender parity. The website's charity of choice for many years has been the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts(WAGGGS) whereby IWD fundraising is channelled. A more recent additional charity partnership is with global working women's organization Catalyst Inc. The IWD website adopts an annual campaign theme that is globally relevant for groups and organizations. This campaign theme, one of many around the world, provides a framework and direction for annual IWD activity and takes into account the wider agenda of both celebration as well as a broad call to action for gender parity. Recent campaign themes have included "Be Bold for Change", "Pledge for Parity", "Make it happen", "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum" and "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures". Campaign themes for the global IWD website are collaboratively and consultatively identified each year and widely adopted.
2011 saw the 100 year centenary of International Women's Day - with the first IWD event held exactly 100 years ago in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the United States, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be "Women's History Month", calling Americans to mark IWD by reflecting on "the extraordinary accomplishments of women" in shaping the country's history. The then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges". In the United Kingdom, celebrity activist Annie Lennox lead a superb march across one of London's iconic bridges raising awareness in support for global charity Women for Women International. Further charities such as Oxfam have run extensive activity supporting IWD and many celebrities and business leaders also actively support the day
2018 and beyond
The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Many from a younger generation may feel that 'all the battles have been won for women' while many feminists from the 1970's know only too well the longevity and ingrained complexity of patriarchy. With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women's visibility as impressive role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women's education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements. IWD is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries IWD has the equivalent status of Mother's Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more. Many global corporations actively support IWD by running their own events and campaigns. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google often changes its Google Doodle on its global search pages to honor IWD. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status.
So make a difference, think globally and act locally!
Make every day International Women's Day.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.