International Women’s Day (IWD) is one of my absolute favorite UN declared celebratory days for many reasons. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.
Since those early years, International Women’s Day has taken on a whole new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
The first national women’s day was actually February 28, 1909 in the United States when the Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. Since then, IWD has continued to be marked in different ways across the globe but officially became a UN Celebratory day in 1975, during the International Women’s Year.
Fast forward to 2017, much has changed for the better in the century since the Socialist Party’s Strike. Huge advances have been made in the daily lives of women, often through strikes, struggles and campaigns that they have been involved in. But even in the context of vastly more developed technology and resources, around the world, women are still laboring long hours for lower pay than male workers.
In many parts of the world, little if anything has improved. Women and girls are still seen literally as the property if not the slaves of men. Millions are deprived even of elementary education and have no time for themselves. While in some neo-colonial countries, considerable progress has been made on issues like contraception, female genital mutilation and deaths in childbirth, many aspects of life – even the availability of food and clean water – have worsened.
So clearly, there’s still more work to do – and this year women haven’t given up, IWD will be marked by strikes across the globe: from the United States to Ireland over to Brazil, women all over the world are taking this day by storm and are making their rights known.
Show your support and join the conversation by tweeting/posting with the official hashtags: #IWD #InternationalWomensDay and this year’s theme, #BeBoldForChange !
Love, Elizabeth T Peters
1. Clare Doyle, March 2017. International Women’s Day 2017
2. United Nations, International Women’s Day