Come this Friday (March 8) the world will be celebrating International Women’s Day. The day is a celebration of women’s strengths and achievements and is celebrated in different ways all over the world. In China and 14 other countries, including Afghanistan, people get the day off work (in some countries only women get the day off), in Bosnia and Italy women are given flowers by their male relatives and in Cameroon, women dance in the street in outfits made from the Women’s Day fabric (the pattern differs every year – many African countries partake in this activity).
The day is also commemorated by the United Nations. The UN explains this day as, “the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men”.
International Women's Day began life in the early 1900’s when it was a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. This industrialization led to greater unrest amongst women, encouraging them to speak out about the oppression and inequality they had experienced. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1909, 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, the second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen, it was here a woman called Clara Zetkin introduced the idea of an International Women’s Day. She called for a yearly celebration on the same day every year to press for women’s demands. This gained unanimous approval and so in 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. One million women and men attended rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland all demanding the right for women to vote, hold public office, work and have equal pay.
While, much has been done to advance women’s rights, this day of celebration looks at what still needs to be done to help women achieve greater equality. It is important to note that we still live in a world where women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of the world’s food, earn 10% of world’s income and own 1% of the world’s property.
The poet William Rose Wallace best sums up the significance of women –
‘For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rocks the world’
So enjoy celebrating this Friday!
Logo courtesy of acclaro.com, photo courtesy of ecumenicalwomen.org and statistics courtesy of wearequals.org