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International Women’s Day

A Past and Present Overview

Let’s address the most obvious question first; what is it?

In short, International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th of March each year by many countries across the world. The day commemorates the movement of women’s rights and marks the achievement of women from all backgrounds, industries and walks of life.

Each year many events are held across the world, they include global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, fun runs, corporate events and other celebrations such as festivals. These events are run by women’s networks, charities, corporations, educational institutions, the media and other bodies.

The first International Women’s day was held in 1909 and has continued to be observed since. From this starting point a past and present overview provides a better idea of the bigger picture.

A timeline of International Women’s day

1909: The very first International Women’s day took place in 1909 on the 28th of February. The American Socialist Party designated the day to those women who went on strike from the Garment industry in 1908 protesting against working conditions.

1910: Women’s Day was established by the Socialist International Meeting in Copenhagen and was marked to honour the movement of women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. Unanimous approval was greeted by a conference of over 100 women from 17 separate countries, three of those involved were the first three women elected to Finnish parliament.

1911: After the aforementioned meeting in Copenhagen, International Women’s Day went on to be marked for the first time in Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and Germany. The turnout proved to be remarkably high, with over a million men and women who attended these rallies. While the primary goal was securing the right for women to vote and hold office, they also demanded that women have the right to employment, educational training and that gender discrimination in the workplace be ended.

1913-1914: International Women’s day became a big part of protesting World War 1 as part of the peace movement. On the last day in February Women of Russia observed their first international women’s day. Rallies were held on or around the 8th of March the following year elsewhere in Europe to protest the war.

1917: German women protested and took strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last day in February. Four days later the provisional Government granted women’s rights to vote.

1975: 1975 was given the name International Women’s Year by the United Nations and since this year has been celebrated on the 8th of each year.

1995: The ‘Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’ was a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments. It focused on 12 critical areas of concern and held a vision that every female can exercise her choices, including education, gaining an income, participating in politics and living free from violence and discrimination.

2014: The 58th annual gathering of state took place to address crucial issues related to women’s rights and gender equality. There was a focus on both the challenges and achievements of the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls. Taking stock of this progress, the United Nations members and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) discussed remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals.

Now as we move forward

So, what now as we move forward?

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressforProgress, a call-to-action to push for gender parity in treatment, culture and the workplace.

This year International Women’s Day comes after unprecedented movement for women’s rights, justice and equality. Marches and campaigns such as #MeToo and #Timesup have taken place in the United States of America and other countries. They have focused on issues ranging from femicide, sexual harassment to equal pay and political representation.

The World’s Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings tell us that we are around 200 years away from gender parity. This is quite a lengthy amount of time, however when you consider certain international communities where women have much lesser rights this is not a great deal of time albeit one we won’t witness in our lifetime.

On this point; there has never been such an important time to keep motivated and remember what International Women’s Day stands for. With global activism for women’s equality, there is a strong global momentum to strive for gender parity. As I stated, this won’t happen overnight but many women across the world are making positive gains day by day.


Zoe Conlan