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08th Mar 2022

Origins of International Women’s Day and why it’s needed now more than ever

Still a long way to go.

There are a lot of conflicting stories when it comes to the origins of International Women’s Day and where it all came from, some sources claim it was in 1917 Russia as women protested food shortages, others claim it was earlier in 1910 the International Conference of Working Women in Denmark.

The earliest records of this day existing date back to the early 20th century when National Women’s Day was held on February 28, 1909, in New York City, organized by the Socialist Party of America.

It was then in 1910 when the International Socialist Women’s Conference met ahead of a meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It was inspired by the American socialists, German delegates Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, Paula Thiede, and others proposed the establishment of an annual “Women’s Day”, but then there was no specific date set.

The 100 delegates that represented 17 countries then agreed with the new idea, aiming to promote equal rights and women’s suffrage.

It was on March 19th 1911 when the first International Women’s Day was officially celebrated by more than one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland, with 300 demonstrations taking place.

Women were demanding the right to vote and hold public office, as well as protesting against employment sex discrimination.

The US began holding National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February with Russia celebrating for the first time in 1913 on the same Sunday. In Germany, it was first celebrated on March 8th 1914.

Up until 1917, no country recognised it as an official holiday, when Russian leader Leon Trotsky declared it a non working day and women were given the right to vote from then on.

Women in China were given a half day in 1949, officially recognising the day, but it wasn’t until the second wave of feminism in 1967 until the United Nations began to look more closely at it.

Reemerging as a day of activism, it was in the 70s and 80s that women’s groups were joined by leftists and labour organisations in calling for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, reproductive rights, subsidized child care, and the prevention of violence against women.

The UN officially began celebrating it in 1975, with the United Nations General Assembly inviting member states to proclaim March 8 as an official UN holiday for women’s rights and world peace in 1977.

Since then, it’s been an annual celebration, with each year centring on a specific theme surrounding women’s rights.

On March 8th we see countless questions being asked, a lot wondering why in the 21st century do we still need it and is it as important? The answer – absolutely.

While the western world may seem as if women have equal rights, the rest of the world is far from it, not to mention women in 2022 in a modern society still falling behind.

28 women around the world are still being forced to get married against their will, with 250 million women alive today who have been married before the age of 15, with many more at risk of this happening due to Covid.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in three women experience some form of sexual harassment or abuse in their lifetime.

At the current rate we’re going, it will take almost 140 years for the pay gap to be closed, according to The Global Gender Gap Report 2021.

181 million girls and young women across the world don’t have access to education and are not involved in any form of further training.

72 countries across the world still don’t let women open a bank account on their own.

Women make up 70% of the healthcare service’s workforce but hold less positions of authority than men.

Women face higher rates of poverty than men, with the figure rising for women of colour.