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History of International Women’s Day

Mar 08 2022

History of International Women’s Day

In Honor of International Women’s Day

Tuesday 8th is International Women’s Day (IWD).  The theme this year is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.”  

According to the official website of UNWomen,  this year’s theme is meant to recognize the contribution of women and girls around the world who are leading on climate change adaptation, mitigation, and response to build a sustainable future for everyone.

“Continuing to examine the opportunities, as well as the constraints, to empower women and girls to have a voice and be equal players in decision-making related to climate change and sustainability is essential for sustainable development and greater gender equality. Without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future, remains beyond our reach.”                                               - UN Women Website

In this age, every day we are celebrating something -sandwiches, beer, love, and in March- women. Some might assume that IWD is one of these holidays - but it has a very long and rich history.

How it started

Contrary to what one might think, this day did not emerge from feminist movements, but rather from socialism. 

A German woman named Clara Zetkin proposed the idea to start celebrating women’s day in 1910 at the second International Conference of Socialist Women, in Copenhagen. One hundred women from 17 countries unanimously accepted the proposal. 

IWD was celebrated for the first time in 1911 in European countries, such as Germany, Denmark, Australia, and Switzerland. In America, the day originated from a women's suffrage event organized by the National Women's Committee of the Socialist Party of America on the last Sunday of February 1909. Known as Woman's Day, celebrating IWD remains one of the official activities of the committee.

Now, IWD is a global day that celebrates the victories and achievements of women.  The day is also an opportunity for women to make their demands heard to reduce gender inequalities.

Why International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March

Legend has it that a demonstration by seamstresses in New York on March 8, 1857, was the origin of this day. However, this demonstration did not take place. This is fake news!

In 1917, women workers in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg ) went on strike on the last Sunday in February, which was also the beginning of the Russian Revolution.  At the time, Russia was still using the Julian calendar, which meant that February 23 corresponded to March 8. As such, this date was chosen to mark International Women’s Day.

The UN and International Women’s Day

In 1977, the United Nations officially recognized International Women's Day — an annual occasion to remember the achievements of women, their struggles, and to fight for the rights of women.

On this day, many associations and institutions organize events to highlight the victories achieved by women and fight for women's rights.

In addition to IWD which is celebrated all over the world, the Heads of state of the African Union have chosen July 31 as African Women’s Day.  During the day, leaders emphasize certain priority areas for African Women, including the fight against poverty, health, agriculture, and food security.

What has purple got to do with it?

Purple is the official color of IWD. Have you ever wondered why?

Globally, the color purple is associated with women. Historically, the combination, of purple, white and green was used to symbolize women’s equality. Purple represents justice. White represents purity. Green signifies hope.

Important dates in the History of International Women’s Day

1910  International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time in New York by the Socialist Party of America.

1911  The day was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

1913  Russian women celebrate their first IWD.

1914  International Women's Day was held on 8 March because that day was a Sunday.

1917  Women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia on March 8, 1917, and the date became a national holiday there.

1921  Lenin declared March 8 International Women's Day.

1975  The United Nations proclaimed 1975 "International Women's Year"

1977 The United Nations adopted International Women's Day.

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