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International Women’s Day: Brief History

International Women’s Day originated over a century ago as a call for gender parity. Over the span of time we have certainly progressed as a community and today International Women’s Day is celebrated globally in recognition of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

 

Despite the fact that the origin of the holiday can be traced back to NY, USA of 1909, for many years International Women’s Day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist and communist societies. That said, in the last few years I noticed a significant shift in the amount of recognition and attention given to the International Women’s Day by local media and the community. There are many perspectives regarding the validity and necessity of this particular holiday and I certainly have my stand on this matter as well. That said, not being familiar with the history of the International Women’s Day, this post is intended as my self –educational material.

 

Timeline of International Women’s Day journey:

1908 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
1909 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
1910 In 1910 a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. A woman named 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
1911 Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1911, International Women’s Day was honored 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. 1911 also saw women’sBread and Roses’ campaign
1913 International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February(February 23). Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists
1917 Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). This marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Women in Saint Petersburg went on strike that day for “Bread and Peace” – demanding the end of World War I, an end to Russian food shortages, and the end of czarism. Leon Trotsky wrote, “23 February (8th March) was International Woman’s Day and meetings and actions were foreseen. But we did not imagine that this ‘Women’s Day’ would inaugurate the revolution. Revolutionary actions were foreseen but without date. But in the morning, despite the orders to the contrary, textile workers left their work in several factories and sent delegates to ask for support of the strike… which led to mass strike… all went out into the streets.” Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote
1975 International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations in 1975. Then in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions
1996 The UN commenced the adoption of an annual theme in 1996 – which was “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future”. This theme was followed in 1997 with “Women at the Peace table”, and in 1998 with “Women and Human Rights”, and in 1999 with “World Free of Violence Against Women”, and so on each year until the current. More recent themes have included, for example, “Empower Rural Women, End Poverty & Hunger” and “A Promise is a Promise – Time for Action to End Violence Against Women”
2000 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

 

2001 The global https://www.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. The IWD website adopts an annual campaign theme that is globally relevant for groups and organizations
2011 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

 

International Women’s Day emerged from the activities of labor movements in North America and Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. At that time, the holiday was meant to press for demands of gender parity.  Despite the obvious progress and many visible changes, according to the World Economic Forum’sGlobal Gender Gap Report things have worsened during 2016 and economic gender equality will not be achieved for another 170 years.

 

World Economic Forum continues by emphasizing the fact that “Enabling women and girls represents the single biggest opportunity for human development and economic growth….But outdated norms and gender stereotypes are impeding our own ability to achieve the systemic change required. The same stereotyping affecting women more broadly is holding back the global economic growth and social progress that will come from increased gender equality and women’s empowerment”.

 

 

Thanks for reading,

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