Before writing this post, I had never even heard of International Women’s Day. Was I the only one? I decided to take an informal poll on Facebook and found that, sadly, I wasn’t. More than 70 percent of those who responded didn’t know anything about the day either, and the few who did were either from another country or had lived in another country.
Apparently, the U.S. wasn’t doing a very good job of celebrating this day. That made writing this post even more important.
So, what is it?
International Women’s Day (IWD) isn’t one of those sentimental holidays created by the card companies. It’s a day that was adopted by the United Nations in 1975 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. More than 100 countries observe this day with marches, debates and rallies and by buying flowers for or honoring the women in their lives in many other special ways. Some of these countries, including Russia, have even made IWD a national holiday!
Every year has a theme.
This year’s UN theme is “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives.” This theme has been truncated for easier use and social media purposes to #PressforProgress. In the powerful wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, women around the world will be rallying and making their voices heard for gender parity.
How long has it been celebrated?
The day’s roots can be traced back to 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, increased pay and the right to vote. A year later, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Woman’s Day, but it wasn’t until the following year that the leader of the “women’s office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, Clara Zetkin, suggested that the day be taken to an international level. The United Nations adopted the holiday in 1975.
How is the day celebrated?
Every country that observes IWD holds rallies, marches or other programs and events that shine a light on women’s achievements thus far, but that also seek to push the needle even further.
For example, the International Women’s Day Forum in Washington, D.C. will bring together female business, civic and government leaders to advance women’s empowerment around the globe. At the IWD 2018 Rally and March in Melbourne, Australia, tens of thousands of people from all ethnicities and walks of life will peacefully march through the streets to show solidarity for women. There will also be a run in Jakarta, Indonesia, a mentoring and networking session in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and a panel discussion closer to home in Staunton, Virginia—to name a few. The collective power of women and men gathering at these events not only raises awareness but also amps up the energy behind women’s causes, which ultimately is what drives change.
Additionally, some employers in China give their female employees half a day off, Italian women receive mimosa blossoms, and the sale of flowers in Russia doubles in the days before IWD. According to a Latin American friend, it’s traditional in her home country to give the women in your life gifts, cards and flowers and take female coworkers to lunch. She’s brought these traditions to the U.S. by taking treats to fellow female employees at her office and celebrating with her daughter.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and help raise awareness about gender parity on March 8th. Find an event near you.