Today it is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women and their achievements across the globe. But what is it and why is it still significant today?
A Brief History
International Women’s Day’s origins lie in the early 1900s – a time we all recognise as historically significant for gender equality around the world. According to the official International Women’s Day website, the day marks a “call for gender parity” as well as general celebration of women’s “social, economic, cultural and political achievements”. The first recognised Women’s Day was in the USA in February 1909, after women in New York marched for better pay, voting rights, and better working hours in 1908.
Later, in 1910, Clara Zetkin suggested an International Women’s Day while at the second International Conference of Working Women. The idea was that on this day, women could raise awareness and push for their demands to further equality. In 1911, following this suggestion, International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19th March. Two years later, in 1913, the date was revised to 8th March – which has remained the same ever since.
Come 2001, International Women’s Day was in need of a boost against late-20th century complacency, and internationalwomensday.com was born. It became a place to find out what was on, how to participate, and a place to celebrate the achievements of women more publicly.
More than 100 years on from the first International Women’s Day, huge leaps have been made to put women on more equal footing with men. The 20th century saw countless countries give women the vote. Women in many countries are far more free to follow careers, but can still choose not to. Education opportunities in the western world particularly have evened up. Many of the biggest names in the creative arts are female.
But that’s not to say that our work is done. Equal pay may be required by law, but that’s not to say it always happens in practice. Equal rights may be allowed by law, but that’s not to say there is no more sexism. Gender discrimination in employment may be banned by law, but that’s not to say it doesn’t still exist.
Protests across the globe today are fighting for still more progress: the #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns are popular. Women are also raising awareness of women in work, such as the work women do in the armed forces, and the difficulty women in the technology sector have in such a male-dominated industry. A quick look at the #internationalwomensday2018 and #IWD2018 hashtags on Twitter will show you what women and organisations everywhere are doing to celebrate the day.
So what can we take from International Women’s Day 2018? First off, that women are amazing, strong, and great multitaskers. Second, that there’s always room for improvement. And third, that while we lucky women in certain walks of life have it pretty good, there are women in many other countries who are still fighting for basic rights like an education. We have voices, so let’s use them.