All You Need to Know About International Women’s Day

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Surely, you must have read or heard the term International Women’s Day or Women’s Day somewhere this month. Perhaps you’ve wondered what it’s about. Whether or not you have, here’s all you need to know about International Women’s Day.

What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day when women’s achievements, in all spheres, are celebrated. The social, political, cultural and economic impact of women is usually highlighted on this day. It is also a day for promoting gender equality and the advancement of women in society. It is marked each year on March 8.

The annual event is the end product of the evolution of women’s rights movements from as far back as 1908. The year 1908 saw the women of New York City come out in thousands to demand for voting rights and an increase in pay. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America, celebrated what they called National Women’s Day. However, it wasn’t until 1910 that the idea of an International Women’s Day was proposed.

Who proposed the idea?
Clara Zetkin, leader of the ‘Women’s office’ of the Social Democratic Party, Germany, made the suggestion at the Second Conference of working women in Copenhagen. The conference was attended by 100 women representatives from 17 countries. Clara’s idea was that there be a chosen day, to be marked annually, on which women’s rights will be promoted and demands made.

When was the first IWD celebrated?
The very first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911, the year after Clara’s proposal. It was celebrated on the 19th of March in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. There were several matches, attended by over a million people. Women demanded for voting rights, against employment discrimination based on sex and the right to hold public office. However, American women continued to celebrate Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.

What happened afterwards?
More and more countries began celebrating International Women’s Day. Many of them, like China, gave the women a half-day off. The celebration was mostly held as a holiday in communist countries like Russia and China, up until the liberal leftists joined after the second wave of feminism around 1967. When the left joined in celebrating International Women’s Day, the demands expanded past suffrage rights to things like reproductive rights and prevention of gender based violence. From then on, International Women’s Day became more than a holiday; it became a day of activism.

How did it come to be celebrated worldwide?
In 1975, the United Nations finally recognized the day and joined in the celebration. Two years later, in 1977, they requested that all member nations agree to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, annually.

Years down the line, in 2009, a British marketing firm called Aurora Ventures set up a website for International Women’s Day. Every year, they announce a hashtag/campaign theme which becomes the basis of celebrations around the world.

What else should you know about IWD?
The theme for 2021 is “Choose to Challenge.” According to the IWD website, “A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change.”

The colour purple, green and white symbolize the International Women’s Day. The use of these colours originate from the UK Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1908. According to the IWD website, “Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept.”

While many countries celebrate the day, officially and unofficially, there are still several others that don’t.

How can you celebrate IWD?
By putting the theme into practice. We should all question every form of gender based oppression while constantly celebrating women’s milestones. Celebrate the women around you today!

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