International Women’s Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day is marked on the 8th of March every year. It is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women.
Started as a political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries (primarily the Russian Federation and the countries of former Soviet bloc).
In some celebrations, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love to the women around them in a somewhat similar to Mother's Day and Valentine's Day: the cost of romance mixed together. In others, however, the political and human rights theme as 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.
“It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.” (United Nations Women Watch)
IWD is also celebrated as the first spring holiday, as in the listed countries (see below) the first day of March is considered the first day of the spring season.
HistoryInternational Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.
1909: The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the Gender Equality in the United States of America of America on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
1910: The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal submitted by the German Socialist Clara Zetkin was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
1911: As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria , Denmark , Germany and Switzerland , where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
Among other relevant historic events, it came to commemorate the (25 March 1911) Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire (90 girls or women killed among 148 dead).
1913-1914: 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. 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). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
Women’s Day in modern cultureThe day remains an official holiday in Albania , Armenia , Azerbaijan , Belarus , Gender Equality in Gender Equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Herzegovina, Bulgaria , China , Cuba , Italy , Kazakhstan , Kyrgyzstan , Macedonia, Moldova , Mongolia , Gender Equality in Serbia and Montenegro and Montenegro, the Russian Federation , Serbia and Montenegro , Tajikistan , Ukraine , Uzbekistan , and Vietnam , and is observed by men giving the women in their lives – mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc., flowers and small gifts. In some countries it is also observed as an equivalent of Mother’s Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union celebrations of IWD were abandoned in Armenia. Instead April 7 was introduced as state holiday of ‘Beauty and Motherhood.’ The new holiday immediately got popular among Armenians, as it commemorates one of the main holidays of Armenian Church, Annunciation. However, people still kept celebrating IWD on March 8 as well. Public discussion held on the topic of two ‘Women’s Days’ in Armenia resulted in the recognition of the so called ‘Women’s Month’ which is the period between March 8 and April 7.
In Italy , to celebrate the day, men give yellow mimosas to women. Yellow mimosas and chocolate are also one of the most common March 8 presents in Russia.
In Gender Equality in Gender Equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Herzegovina, Brazil , Croatia , Hungary , Gender Equality in Serbia and Montenegro and Montenegro, Poland , Bulgaria , Romania , Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia , the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women usually get gifts from their employers too. School children often bring gifts for their teachers as well.
In India , IWD holds a lot of significance. Many celebrations are held during the day. This portrays the power of women in the modern era and how vital their role is in the society.
In 1975, which had been designated as International Women’s Year, the United Nations the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March.
Two years later, 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. “In adopting its resolution, the General Assembly recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women’s full and equal participation.”
The 2005 Congress (conference) of the British Trades Union Congress overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for IWD to be designated a public holiday in the United Kingdom.
Today many events are held by women’s groups around the world. The global women’s organization Aurora hosts a free worldwide register of IWD local events (www.internationalwomensday.com) so that women and the media can locate local activity. Many governments and organisations around the world support IWD. For example, HSBC hosts a range of IWD activity including co-hosting of the the United Kingdom ‘s flagship IWD event with women’s group Aurora. Global interest in IWD shows a steady increase.