What is International Women’s Day (IWD)

by Michelle Moran
What is International Women’s Day (IWD)

Women’s Day is a day dedicated to women and it is celebrated on 8th of March all around the globe. In dozens of countries like Russia, Vietnam, Uganda, Cuba, Armenia, Belarus, Montenegro, Afghanistan, to name some, it is recognized as an official holiday. The tradition of celebrating this day was first born at the beginning of the 20th century in New York and after more than 100 years, it continues to live.

First Women’s Day

The first women’s day celebrated under name of ’National Woman’s Day’ took place on February 28, 1909. in New York. It was organized by an activist of the Socialist Party of America, Theresa Malkiel. It is said to have been organized to commemorate the working rights protests led by women garment workers back in 1857.

1857. protests happened as a response to inhumane working conditions in the textile industry factories and also, low wages.
Although the police quickly dispersed the protesters, the tension and dissatisfaction with the inequality of rights for women remained and led to the creation of the first women’s labor union.

About half of the century later, on March 8th, 1908, 15 000 women marched in New York for better wages, shorter working hours, voting rights, and the end to child labor. The slogan of the protest ’ Bread and Roses’ symbolized two main goals which women were fighting for. Bread, to depict the financial and economic security, and roses to depict the enhanced living standard in
form of education, culture, sports.

What is International Women’s Day (IWD)

Spreading the idea

One year after the first Women’s Day celebration, in 1910, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was held in Copenhagen, Denmark. One of the topics discussed intensively was the establishment of an annual 'Women’s Day’ intending to promote equal rights for women, and mostly to gain suffrage.

The proposal came from the German socialist, Clara Zetkin, and got approval from 100 other women delegates from 17 countries representing unions, working women’s clubs, socialist parties, etc. The date of celebration wasn’t established from the beginning, but in the early years of celebration it took place on the various days of March. So that is that why we can sometimes hear that March is a women’s month.

In 1911, International Women’s Day was marked by the name we know and use today by more than a million people in Germany, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland.

What is International Women’s Day (IWD)

Celebration in Russia & Voting Right

In 1917. women textile workers began a strike for ’bread and peace’, demanding the end of World War I, an end to food shortages, and the end of tzarism. This strike marked the beginning of the February Revolution. The protest was massive and the streets of the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, were full of women demanding their rights.

That situation didn’t meet the approval of Tsar Nicholas II, the country’s leader at the time, who instructed Military leaders to shoot any woman that refused to stand down. But, the protestors were not easy to intimidate and give up the fight for what they wanted which led to Tsar Nicholas II's abdication just one week after the protests started. Shortly following the Tsar’s abdication, the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

After the official adoption in Soviet Russia in 1917, the holiday was celebrated mainly by communist countries and unions worldwide and it remained predominantly a communist holiday until 1967. In 1967, the holiday was re-invented by second-wave feminists at it got its connection to a wider range of topics such as equal job opportunities, the prevention, and protection from violence against women, equal legal rights, and so on.

Why exactly 8th of March

As mentioned, in the early years of celebrating this day, there was no specific date related to it. In 1914, International Women’s Day was held on 8th of March in Germany, and since that time, it is always marked on that date in all world countries.

United Nations1975. & 1977.

In 1975, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by United Nations. Only two years after, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be marked on any day of the year in accordance with each Member State’s tradition and history. Most of the countries kept the tradition born in 1914. to mark this day on 8th of March.

The first UN annual theme 1996.

In the year of 1996, the UN announced the first annual theme dedicated to International Women’s Day called ’Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future’. Since that time, every year a day would be given a specific theme, some of them being Women and the Peace Table, Women, and Human Rights, World Free of Violence Against Woman, Women Uniting for Peace, Women and HIV/AIDS. Women in Decision-making and so on.

IWD and Mother’s Day

In some countries, the IWD celebration is combined with a celebration of Mother’s Day as they both represent a kind of women’s appreciation day. Some of the countries with the named practice being Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, and Uzbekistan.

What is International Women’s Day (IWD)

2021 IWD

The theme of this year’s IWD, ’Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’, is dedicated to great efforts made by women around the globe in shaping an equal future and recovery from the pandemic that has been shaping the way we live in the past year.

Although a lot has been achieved since 1857. protests in obtaining more rights and better protection against various types of discrimination and violence, still many things need to be improved. The time of the pandemic showed us that women can have a critical role in decision-making. Many women are at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 as health care workers, scientists, and doctors, and yet, on a global level, they get paid 11% less than their male counterparts. Some of the women have been acknowledged as the most effective leaders during the pandemic, with female heads of government, such as New Zeeland Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, having been praised for extraordinary handling of the crisis.

Worth mentioning is the fact that although women make up 70% of health sector workers, only 24.7% of health ministers are female, according to the UN Women survey. There is definitely a huge under-representation of women in decision-making worldwide, and we choose to see that as a chance to further evolve and continue to stand up for our rights.

That was a brief history of the IWD from the early days of the establishment until today. If you’re interested in getting involved in activities related to IWD, you can visit the official IWD’s website: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/ for more information.

What is International Women’s Day (IWD)


To all women around the world, we wish you a happy 8th of March, stay special and stay healthy!



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