International Women’s Day

Regular readers will know that I am a huge supporter of women’s rights and so International Women’s Day which falls tomorrow is a topic I never fail to write about.

International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when all women are recognised for their achievements. International Women’s Day was first born out of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Since those early days, International Women’s Day has grown in prominence and reach, touching women in every corner of the world. The growing international women’s movement has helped make International Women’s Day a central point for action, to build support for women’s rights and their full participation in the economy, politics, community and everyday life.

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In 1910, Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. The proposal received unanimous support from over one hundred women representing 17 countries. The very first International Women’s Day was held the following year on March 19th. Meetings and protests were held across Europe, with the largest street demonstration attracting 30,000 women. In 1913, IWD was moved to March 8th and has been held on this day ever since.

International Women’s Day or IWD, celebrated on March 08 is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality. The IWD has occurred for well over a century, with the first IWD gathering in 1911 supported by over a million people. Today, International Women’s Day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere and is not country, group or organization specific.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day from the IWD organisation is Break the Bias. Let’s imagine a gender-equal world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, a world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive and a world where difference is valued and celebrated. Let us all forge women’s equality and collectively we can all Break the Bias. Individually, we’re all responsible for our thoughts and actions – all day, every day and we can break the biases in our communities, our workplaces, our schools, colleges and universities and together, we can all break the bias – on International Women’s Day and beyond. Purple, green and white are the colours of International Women’s Day with purple signifying justice and dignity, green symbolising hope and white representing purity, albeit a controversial concept. The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union or WSPU in the UK in 1908.

The United Nations celebrated International Women’s Day with a separate theme. Women and girls face greater vulnerability and exposure to disasters, and conflicts, and yet they remain largely ignored in developing solutions and their capabilities are often under-utilised. As the most impacted, women are also a critical part of the solution. The theme this year is Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world. Women stand at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers and as some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. The crisis has highlighted both the centrality of their contributions and the disproportionate burdens that women carry. This year’s theme celebrates the tremendous efforts made by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities. The world has made unprecedented advances, but no country has achieved gender equality. Fifty years ago, we landed on the moon; in the last decade, we discovered new human ancestors and photographed a black hole for the first time. In the meantime, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. Less than 25 per cent of parliamentarians were women, as of 2019 and even today one in three women experiences gender-based violence.

Because sometimes we need to remember we’re not alone. Happy International Women’s Day to all the lovely women and the men who support and motivate their women!

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