Updated: Mar 16
You’ve heard about International Women’s Day (IWD), which takes place every year on 8th March - in the press, from colleagues or friends, on social media. But do you know what it’s REALLY about?
Activism is in the air - in the last year alone we’ve seen protests for various causes taking place in every corner of the world. So, is IWD a protest? Or is it a celebration?
So many organisations, of all different types, now use the day as an opportunity to make noise, which is great because the movement has taken on a life of its own, it reaches the masses and is recognised globally - IWD belongs to all groups collectively, everywhere.
However, it’s important that we never lose sight of what the day signifies. So, for the many who may not be familiar, we’re going to take a little look at the origins of IWD.
In a nutshell - what is International Women’s Day?
The official website says it best: “International Women's Day 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.”
110 years of IWD - so, how did it start?
In 1910, at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, an extraordinary woman named Clara Zetkin, proposed an idea that every year, every country should celebrate a ‘women’s day’ on the same day to champion the demands of women. At this conference of over 100 female representatives from 17 countries, her proposal was met with overwhelming approval and International Women’s Day was created.
IWD was officially honoured for the first time on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. More than one million people (both men and women alike) supported the cause with rallies campaigning for women’s rights - to vote, receive training, receive better working conditions, hold a public office etc.
In 1914, the official date became 8 March, and has been the same date ever since.
You can see a timeline here, with the pivotal series of events that led to IWD.
2021 theme - #ChooseToChallenge
“From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge”
The theme for IWD 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. With the campaign urging all to challenge and call out gender bias to help create an inclusive world.
To join the campaign and show your support through social media, strike the #ChooseToChallenge pose, which is a photo with your hand raised high in the air to show that you commit to challenge inequality, call out bias and question stereotypes and share using the hashtags; #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021. Check out the official Instagram to see what others are doing.
And if you’re feeling generous, you can donate to any of the IWD charities of choice.
Keep pushing for a gender equal world
This movement gains more status year on year and we’ve come leaps and bounds - IWD is an official holiday in 27 countries and even holds similar esteem as Mother’s Day in others!
Sadly, the fact remains that inequality is still very much there - women are still not paid equally, are still underrepresented in business and politics, suffer greater violence against them (to name a few) compared to men. To contradict my earlier point, the State Council in China advises employers to give women a half-day off work on IWD but many employers don’t actually pass this on to their female employees.
As a female business owner, I feel so passionate about this and have used my platform to create a community of working women who support each other and share experiences. Every time I'm invited to speak at events or join a conversation on Instagram, I make sure my voice is heard.
Change can happen ladies, we've just got to use our voices and keep fighting for it!
"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." - Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist
Blog image: By Karl Maria Stadler (1888 – nach 1943) - Poster for Women's Day, March 8, 1914, demanding voting rights for women. Scan from an old book, Public Domain, Wikimedia.