Do you know why International Women’s Day is celebrated? What is the reason behind this?
In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City, demanding shorter working hours, better pay, and voting rights. What might have seemed at that moment as a one-time event has evolved into an annual gathering celebrated all around the world? And what is more, the whole of March has even turned into a Women’s History Month.
Not so fast, though. The first National Women’s Day was declared only a year later by the Socialist Party of America. It was celebrated on the last Sunday of February that year.
In 1910, a German woman called Clara Zetkin introduced the idea to make the day international at a Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. Her female colleagues liked it and agreed. Next year, on March 19, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. So technically, this year, we are celebrating the 110th International Women’s Day anniversary.
As a result of the events, International Women’s Day became an official holiday in Russia in 1913. However, women were about to face numerous difficulties because of the upcoming World War I, including food shortages. On March 8, 1917 (which was February 23 on the Julian calendar), Russian women went on a strike for ‘bread and peace.’ The then, Tzar abdicated, and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. This was a huge success, and that is why the IWD is now celebrated on March 8.
The day was made official as late as 1975 when the United Nations started celebrating it. Whereas the first annual theme was announced in 1996. It was ‘Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future’, followed by ‘Women at the Peace table’ in 1997, and ‘Women and Human Rights’ in 1998. This year’s theme is ‘Choose to Challenge.’ Because ‘A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.’
And so, each year, on March 8, millions of women gather together around the world to celebrate how far they have come in politics, economics, and society in general. They loudly commemorate their achievements, as well as the journey they had to take to arrive there.
On the other hand, various strikes and protests to raise awareness of the prevailing inequality are organized too. We now do have female astronauts and prime ministers, as well as scientists and professors. Girls are allowed to study and go to university. And then, they can have it all—a successful career, as well as family. But, surprisingly, we are not quite there yet. Women are still commonly underpaid, do not have an equal number of representatives in businesses and politics, and are generally more likely to become victims of violence. It is maybe time for another big change.
We have made a giant leap in them 110 years. But then, the COVID-19 pandemic appeared. According to recent data from UN Women, the coronavirus crisis not only destroys lives but could also wipe out the past 25 years of raising gender equality. With offices moving to our living rooms and teachers on computer screens, the need for household chores and care has multiplied. The study shows that the burden usually falls on women. As a result, those could suffer from poorer mental and physical health and even face difficulties finding employment and education opportunities. And we, the female workforce, might have to go through the 25 years again, fighting for our rights and equal opportunities.
It is not the right time now to participate in marches and celebrations. Still, we can all engage in plenty of online events, such as motivational speeches, discussions, and concerts.
How about you, will you #ChooseToChallenge this year?