Each year around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8.
International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s, which marked a time of expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies.
Back in 1908 women’s oppression and inequality were spurring women to become active in campaigning for change. That year 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
It sparked a movement that continued to see long-standing barriers break down.
And it’s remarkable to consider how sweeping the changes have been – one gauge of that is how widespread International Women’s Day is now.
It’s now an official holiday in a range of countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cuba, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.
The tradition sees men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. with flowers and small gifts. In some countries the day has the equivalent status of Mother’s Day where children give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
With more women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights, and an increased critical mass of women’s visibility as role models in every aspect of life, one could think that women have gained true equality.
But as the International Women’s Day web site points out, there’s much more to be done. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men.
However, improvements have been made.
There are female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family. Ultimately, women have real choices. And so, as organizers emphasize, the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.
Meanwhile, thousands of events occur not just on this day but throughout the month to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.
Many groups choose different themes each year relevant to global and local gender issues.
Organizers have chosen ‘Inspiring Change’ as the 2014 theme, according to the www.internationalwomensday.com web site.
The theme encourages advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.