Yesterday, March 8, was International Women’s Day (IWD) and it was celebrated across the world. This annual celebration honours women’s remarkable contribution to our society. With all the social, economic, cultural and political achievements by women.
March 8 raises awareness of the inspiring role women worldwide played to secure women’s rights and build more equitable societies. This day also marks a “call to action” to increase gender equality.
International Women’s Day through history
However, did you know that IWD originates from socialist movements of the early 20th century? It began in February 1908. Thousands of women garment workers took to the streets in New York to protest against their working conditions. They protested against long work hours, low pay and the lack of voting rights. A year later, the women were still striking. Hence, the Socialist Party of America declared February 28 as Women’s Day, in honour of the anniversary of those strikes.
However, it was Clara Zetki, German Marxist theorist, activist and advocate for women’s rights, who proposed to celebrate Women’s Day internationally. This was at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. Around 100 women from 17 countries attended and they unanimously agreed to celebrate Women’s Day worldwide. A year later, in 1911, it was first celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
Although IWD was born from the women’s labour movement in the United States, it took on a truly revolutionary form in Russia in 1917.
Russia, on the verge of the Revolution was facing social and political unrest. It was against this backdrop, a country exhausted by war, that daily mass strikes took place in protest of the widespread food shortages. The men were off at war and the women found themselves the sole breadwinners. As a result, the women were not only demanding bread but also more rights and the end of the autocracy. Russia’s 1917 IWD demonstration was held on February 23 – the equivalent of March 8 in the Russian calendar.
Today, IWD gets celebrated around the world and is considered an official holiday in at least 20 countries. This includes Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Cambodia, where they officially honour women’s rights and achievements.
Why wear purple?
Purple, green, and white were the symbol of women’s equality from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the United Kingdom. In 1908, the colour purple represented justice and dignity. Thereon, it became an international symbol for women. Therefore, wearing purple means joining other women across the world in solidarity to celebrate this special day.
Additionally, wearing purple also shows support to women who broke down barriers in the career realm. For example, the possibility to work in industries that were traditionally denied to women. Particularly careers in tech! Hence, we wear purple to show our support for increased gender diversity in tech.
Also, did you know that each year IWD is celebrated with a different theme? This year’s theme was #EachforEqual. Based on the notion of ‘Collective Individualism.‘
“We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.
Collectively, we can make change happen. Collectively, we can each help to create a gender equal world.”
Moreover, although the day was celebrated yesterday, every day is an opportunity to create gender parity. What do you do to celebrate achievements and to help forge women’s equality?