Year after year, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day to honour the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women throughout history and all across the world. The day comes as a reminder for women from all different backgrounds and cultures to join together to reflect on progress made and to rally for gender parity and women’s rights.
The day has a rich history dating back 108 years. The first glimpse of it was in 1909 when the Socialist Party of America celebrated 15,000 women who staged protests against long work hours, low pay, and the lack of voting rights in New York City. The day was first marked as National Women’s day originally, later the monumental celebration spread across the world officially celebrated in 1911.
It was in 1910 when Marxist from Germany Clara Zetkin, a leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany proposed at an international conference of working women that Women’s Day be celebrated in every country on February 28. She was part of the labour movement and women’s movement.
The conference comprised 100 women from 17 countries, with unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs and female legislators unanimously approved the suggestion. The celebration was first observed in 1911. Between 1913 and 1914, women in Russia observed their first Women’s Day on February 23. Later, the date was changed to March 8, the globally accepted day to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Although International Women’s Day became an official holiday in Russia in 1913, women still faced difficulties caused by World War I. While men were off at war, women dealt with food shortages and a government that wouldn’t listen to them. On March 8, 1917, tens of thousands of Russian women took to the streets demanding change. It was the unified cry for help that paved the way for Russian women to be granted voting rights soon after.
The United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day in 1975. Later, it began to adopt an annual theme for every year. The first theme was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future.” This year’s theme #ChooseToChallenge. It points out that a challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change.