The International Women’s Day that falls on 8th March is definitely a highlight in March every year but how much do you know about the day, i.e. how it started, what is it for? Give me 5 minutes and let me tell you more! According to the United Nations, International Women’s Day (IWD) is to celebrate and recognize all women for their achievements, setting aside the other divisions such as national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. This year, IWD encourages all to #ChooseToChallenge. From challenge only comes change. Hence, let’s challenge the world collectively for a more inclusive world! IWD has identified a few areas for us to focus on :
- Celebrate tech women and innovation
- Applaud equality for women in sport
- Build inclusive workplaces so women thrive
- Forge women’s empowerment worldwide
- Educate women on health choice decisions
- Increase visibility of women creatives
How it started
It started as early as 1908. According to the BBC, a group of textile women workers started a march in New York City. About 15,000 women in the industry marched for the working conditions of textile workers and the women’s campaign for suffrage. In short, it started to demand more rights for women and for a better life for women. There is an argument later on in 1985 about the existence of the event. According to an article published by The University of Chicago, Temma Kaplan argued that these demonstrations might be just a myth that was created during the Cold War in her book.
Two years later, in 1909, the United States had its own National Woman’s Day. However, it was not held on the day we are celebrating now. It was held on February 28 of the year. Charlotte Perkins Gilman who is known as a writer, lecturer, economist and theorist who fought for women’s domestic rights and women’s suffrage in the early 1900s proclaims that the duty of a woman is centred in her home but home should be seen as the whole country and not to be limited to a room, a house, a city or a state.
In 1911, there were more celebrations of the day, starting in Europe. Though it was held on March 19, countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland celebrated by attending rallies to demand more an end to gender discrimination and to empower women with more rights. In addition, not only women but men are part of the celebration too!
Then, in 1977, the United Nations officially recognized the day. As mentioned above, we didn’t celebrate the day on the 8th of March in the beginning. According to the United Nations, we are celebrating it on the 8th of March and it is related to the women’s movements during the Russian Revolution in 1917.
For more information on the chronology of what the UN has done to fight for women’s rights, visit their page here.
A worldwide celebration
IWD is celebrated worldwide and some countries even recognized and announced it as an official holiday. As for Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Laos recognized the day as an official holiday.
An interesting fact is that Vietnam celebrates Women’s Day twice a year. According to Vietnam Insider, aside from the IWD, they also celebrate its National Women’s Day on October 20. According to the website named Women’s Day Celebration, it is because the women in Vietnam had fought in many wars and contributed a lot to the country. This is backed by the Vietnamese saying “When the enemy is at the gate, the women go out fighting”, translated by the author of the website.
According to the BBC, on the 8th of March, men and women will buy flowers for their female friends and colleagues to show their appreciation. In Russia, because of IWD, the sales of flowers often doubles.