International Women’s Day – why it (still) matters
International Women’s Day is observed every year on March the 8th all over the world to celebrate women’s success and achievements throughout history. It is considered a national holiday in some countries such as Russia, China and Bulgaria. However, 108 years after the first ever IWD, it is very easy to wonder whether it still matters at all. Do women really need a day dedicated to them? The answer is: Yes. Benedetta Picarone Fabris will familiarise you with the reasons why.
Firstly, it’s important to first know the history behind this celebration.The first International Women’s Day, celebrated in New York on 28 February 1909, was organised by the Socialist Party of America to honour and remember the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union, which saw women protesting for better pay and working conditions. Following the International Women’s Conference held in Copenhagen in 1910, IWD started being celebrated in several European countries, where demonstrations were held demanding the right to vote and to hold public office. With the advent of World War I, International Women’s Day also became a mechanism to protest war, and rallies were held both in Russia and in Europe. None of these protests, however, were held on March 8th . It was only in 1975, during International Woman’s Year, that the United Nations chose this day to officially celebrate IWD, possibly for no other reason than it being a Sunday. From that day on, International Women’s Day is celebrated globally, with the UN creating a different theme each year – 2017 is ‘Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030’.
International Women’s Day still matters today, then, because its original aim hasn’t yet been achieved. We have come a long way in the last century, but a gender pay gap still exists, and women are still not present in equal numbers as men in politics and business – and this is just in countries were women supposedly have equal rights. In countries such as Afghanistan, Nepal and Saudi Arabia, domestic and sexual violence is widespread, women are forced into early marriages, and have to suffer repression, isolation and enforced ignorance. On International Women’s Day, we should celebrate what we have achieved but also campaign and take action to achieve gender equality worldwide. We should, all of us, #BeBoldForChange.