International Women’s Day as a vehicle for change

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global celebration in more than 100 countries, which is held on March 8 every year.

by Staff Reporter/ Sarah Pruitt (Women’s History)


This year’s global theme is BeBoldForChange, which seeks to compel every individual to take groundbreaking action that truly drives the greatest change for women.

In Zimbabwe, there will be the national launch of IWD today, led by the Ministry of Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development in collaboration with United Nations partner.

The theme for the country is The Woman We Want Is: Bankable, Business Minded, Brainy, Beautiful, Bold, Blessed And Balanced. Later in the day, there will be a get-together at the National Gallery to consummate the event.

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Controversy clouds the history of International Women’s Day. According to a common version of the holiday’s origins, it was established in 1907, to mark the 50th anniversary of a brutally repressed protest by New York City’s female garment and textile workers.

But there’s a problem with that story: Neither the 1857 protest nor the 50th anniversary tribute may have actually taken place.

In fact, research that emerged in the 1980s suggested that origin myth was invented in the 1950s, as part of a Cold War-era effort to separate International Women’s Day from its socialist roots.

The historian, Temma Kaplan, revisited the first official National Woman’s Day, held in New York City on February 28, 1909. (The organisers, members of the Socialist Party of America, wanted it to be on a Sunday so that working women could participate.)

Thousands of people showed up at various events uniting the suffragist and socialist causes, whose goals had often been at odds.

Labour organiser Leonora O’Reilly and others addressed the crowd at the main meeting in the Murray Hill Lyceum, at 34th Street and Third Avenue.

In Brooklyn, writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, of The Yellow Wall-paper fame, told the congregation of the Parkside Church: “It is true that a woman’s duty is centered in her home and motherhood . . . [but] home should mean the whole country, and not be confined to three or four rooms or a city or a state.”

The concept of a “woman’s day” caught on in Europe. On March 19, 1911 (the 40th anniversary of the Paris Commune, a radical socialist government that briefly ruled France in 1871), the first International Woman’s Day was held, drawing more than one million people to rallies worldwide.

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, most attempts at social reform ground to a halt, but women continued to march and demonstrate on International Women’s Day.

In 1975, recognised as International Women’s Year, the United Nations General Assembly began celebrating March 8 as International Women’s Day.

By 2014, it was celebrated in more than 100 countries, and had been made an official holiday in more than 25. Over the years, however, many celebrations of International Women’s Day strayed far from the holiday’s political roots.

In Argentina, for example, it was largely commercialised, with men buying flowers and other gifts for the women in their lives.

In China, despite the country’s long history with International Women’s Day, recent holiday events have focused on shopping and beauty events, such as fashion shows.

Last year, in a somewhat bizarre tribute, a group of Chinese men climbed a mountain in dresses and high heels as an attempt to “experience the hardship” of being a woman.

Last year, organisations and individuals around the world supported the #PledgeForParity campaign and committed to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, challenge conscious and unconscious bias, call for gender-balanced leadership, value women and men’s contributions equally and create inclusive flexible cultures.

From awareness raising to concrete action, organisations rallied their people to pledge support to help forge gender parity on International Women’s Day and beyond.

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1 Comment

  1. For the avoidance of doubt, its good to celebrate women’s day in unison but rather with no mention of man, then the whole initiative becomes discriminatory. The reasons are that man and woman are equal beings, as some would like to perceive though offside, who must be accorded equal rights, equal opportunities without stereotyping. Therefore celebrating women’s day with no mention of man is highly discrimination……

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