Features, Radio

International Women’s Day – What is it? and Why do we celebrate it?

Features, Radio

International Women’s Day – What is it? and Why do we celebrate it?

12 months ago
By Niamh Hutchings

Today is International Women’s day. But what exactly does this day mean?

This day was created in 1909 in the United States to honour the 1908 garment worker’s strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. The day spread to Europe the following year, with each country celebrating their own National Women’s Day. It was marked in England during the 1910s by the Women’s Suffrage Movement every year with a march to Trafalgar Square. It was officially known as International Women’s Day in 1911. The influence of Women’s Suffrage led to the official colours of IWD being purple, green and white, the colours of various suffrage organisations across the world.

During the World Wars, the day was mostly unrecognised as most women had secured the vote by then. However, in 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations revived the day. In 1977 the General Assembly proclaimed a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be celebrated on a day of each member state’s choosing throughout the year, in accordance with their individual traditions.

From 1996 onwards, the UN has announced themes for each year. The first theme was ‘Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future’. This year it is ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’, a call for worldwide gender balance.

The hub for International Women’s Day is supported by many organisations and donates to a charity each year, the most notable one being the World Association for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. March is now known as Women’s History Month since President Barack Obama declared it as such on the 100th anniversary of the celebration.

There are many ways you can celebrate IWD. Some countries treat it as an equivalent to Mother’s Day, with young children give gifts to mothers and grandmothers. Many countries recognise it as a national holiday, with women receiving a day off work. Other countries see men offering gifts to the women in their lives. In the US, the President gives an official statement of recognition, or Presidential Proclamation, to honour the achievements of American women. Italy celebrates by giving women bouquets of yellow Mimosa blossom flowers, a symbol of female strength and sensibility. Spain uses it as a day to protest through various strikes against the gender pay gap, domestic violence and sexual discrimination in the workplace.

The UK uses this day to bring awareness to social and political problems facing women. Panel talks, exercise classes and gigs to raise money for women’s rights charities, and seminars take place across the country. Many marches are happening over the weekend; most notably is a walk happening in Brixton this year to raise awareness for the role black women played in securing the vote and their own civil rights.

However you choose to celebrate this year, use it as a day to reflect on the amazing women that surround you every day and the struggles we have fought through over the last 100+
years to get to where we are now.

The battle for gender equality isn’t over yet, but each year we edge closer, and International Women’s Day only helps to further the cause.