International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation, and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political, and social achievements.
Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended the culture of many countries, primarily in Europe, especially those in the Soviet Bloc. In some regions, the day lost its political flavor, and became simply an occasion for people to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
In other regions, however, the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner. Some people celebrate the day by wearing purple ribbons.
The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York; it was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. There was no specific strike happening on March 8, despite later claims.
In August 1910, an International Women’s Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual ‘International Woman’s Day’ (singular) and was seconded by fellow socialist and later communist leader Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference.
Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage, for women. The following year, on March 19, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that women be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination. Americans continued to celebrate National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February.
Female members of the Australian Builders Labourers Federation march on International Women’s Day 1975 in Sydney
Although there were some women-led strikes, marches, and other protests in the years leading up to 1914, none of them happened on March 8. In 1914 International Women’s Day was held on March 8, possibly because that day was a Sunday, and now it is always held on March 8 in all countries. The 1914 observance of the Day in Germany was dedicated to women’s right to vote, which German women did not win until 1918.
In London there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage on 8 March 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.
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 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.”
Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, and it was established, but was a working day until 1965. On May 8th, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women’s Day was declared a non-working day in the USSR “in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women’s day must be celebrated as are other holidays.”
From its official adoption in Russia following the Soviet Revolution in 1917 the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist and socialist countries. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and by Spanish communists from 1936. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the state council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.
In the West, International Women’s Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977 when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.
Official UN themes
|1996||Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future|
|1997||Women and the Peace Table|
|1998||Women and Human Rights|
|1999||World Free of Violence Against Women|
|2000||Women Uniting for Peace|
|2001||Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts|
|2002||Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities|
|2003||Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals|
|2004||Women and HIV/AIDS|
|2005||Gender Equality Beyond 2005; Building a More Secure Future|
|2006||Women in Decision-making|
|2007||Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls|
|2008||Investing in Women and Girls|
|2009||Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls|
|2010||Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All|
|2011||Equal Access to Education, Training, and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women|
|2012||Empower Rural Women, End Poverty and Hunger|
|2013||A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women|
|2014||Equality for Women is Progress for All|
|2015||Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!|
2010 International Women’s Day
On the occasion of 2010 International Women’s Day the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) drew attention to the hardships displaced women endure. The displacement of populations is one of the gravest consequences of today’s armed conflicts. It affects women in a host of ways.
2011 International Women’s Day
U.S. Army officer Lt Col Pam Moody with a group of Afghan women on International Women’s Day 2011
Events took place in more than 100 countries on March 8, 2011 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. 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. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges”, on the eve of IWD. In the run-up to 2011 International Women’s Day, the Red Cross called on States and her entities not to relent in their efforts to prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence that harm the lives and dignity of countless women in conflict zones around the world every year. In Pakistan, the Punjab Government Project Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP), Gujranwala District celebrated this day at the GIFT University Gujranwala. Shazia Ashfaq Mattu, MPA and GRAP officer Yasir Nawaz Manj organized the events Australia issued an IWD 100th anniversary commemorative 20 cent coin.
In Egypt however, the day was a step back for women. In Egypt’s Tahrir Square, hundreds of men came out not in support, but to harass the women who came out to stand up for their rights as the police and military stood by watching the events unfold in front of them. “The women – some in headscarves and flowing robes, others in jeans – had marched to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to celebrate International Women’s Day. But crowds of men soon outnumbered them and chased them out,” wrote Hadeel Al-Shalchi for The Associated Press (AP).
2012 International Women’s Day
The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2012 was Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty. In that year, Oxfam America invited people to celebrate inspiring women in their lives by sending a free International Women’s Day e-Card or honoring a woman whose efforts had made a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty with Oxfam’s International Women’s Day award.
On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2012, the ICRC called for more action to help the mothers and wives of people who have gone missing during armed conflict. The vast majority of people who go missing in connection with conflict are men. As well as the anguish of not knowing what has happened to the missing husband or son, many of these women face economic and practical difficulties. The ICRC underlined the duty of parties to a conflict to search for the missing and provide information to the families.
The Google Doodle for March 8, 2012 had an International Women’s Day theme.
2013 International Women’s Day
The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2013 was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women,” while International Women’s Day 2013 declared the year’s theme as The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.
The 2013 International Women’s Day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) draw attention to the plight of women in prison.
2014 International Women’s Day
The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2014 was “Equality for Women is Progress for All”.
The Google Doodle on the eve of IWD 2014 (7 March 2014) featured an International Women’s day doodle video on YouTube, showing images and videos of women from around the world, with music by Zap Mama. American singer Beyoncé Knowles also posted an International Women’s Day on YouTube video to her YouTube account. Throughout the video, her song ***Flawless plays, which includes a portion of the “we should all be feminists” speech given by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Knowles is a modern-day feminist.
2015 International Women’s Day
The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2015 is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” Governments and activists around the world will commemorate the 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, an historic roadmap that sets the agenda for realizing women’s rights.
The International Woman’s Day theme for 2015 is ‘Make It Happen’ with a dedicated hashtag for social media.
2016 International Women’s Day
2016 will has not yet been revealed but is leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 2017.
2017 International Women’s Day
2017 will be the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, which was sparked on March 8, 1917 by women protesting against bread shortages in St. Petersburg. These events culminated in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II on March 15. Worldwide celebrations and re-enactments are scheduled to begin on March 8, 2017. Among the organizers is the Ukrainian women’s direct action group FEMEN, which aims “to shake women in Ukraine, making them socially active; to organize in 2017 a women’s revolution.” On this day a global women’s strike including a sex strike is planned, called by, among others, the International Union of Sex Workers.
Take a look at the International Women’s Day dedication from Google Doodle
This is a Google Doodle dedication about the International Women’s Day for today March 8, 2015. Google celebrates the International Women’s Day 2015 with a worldwide Google Doodle. It is a celebration for women’s economic, political and social accomplishment. The Google Doodle shows jobs which were in the past only reserved for men.
International Women’s Day Google Doodle