Five facts you need to know about International Women’s Day

Every year on 8 March, International Women’s Day is celebrated. But what do you know about IWD? We’re here to answer five important questions…

How long has International Women’s Day been celebrated?

On 28 February 1909, the then-active Socialist Party of America celebrated the first National Woman’s Day in commemoration of the 15,000 women who protested in New York against harsh working conditions and lesser wages. 

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, a women’s rights advocate and the leader of Germany’s Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party, proposed the idea of a global International Women’s Day. 

On 19 March 1911, the first International Women’s Day was held, with more than 1 million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland taking part. 

It took until 1975 for the United Nations to recognize and begin celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD). Since then, the UN has served as the major sponsor of the yearly event, encouraging more countries to recognize “acts of courage and resolve by ordinary women who have played an outstanding role in the history of their countries and communities.”

And for those wondering and feeling left out (get over it), there is an International Men’s Day, which is celebrated on 19 November in more than 80 countries worldwide, including the UK. It has only been marked since the 1990s and isn’t recognised by the UN.

What is the symbol and colour of International Women’s Day?

The symbol for International Women’s Day is a female gender symbol. It is usually accompanied by the colours purple, green and white. 

According to the International Women’s Day website, purple stands for dignity and justice, green for hope, and white for purity. “The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK in 1908.”

Is it a holiday?

The day’s purpose varies by country. In some, it’s a day of protest, while in others, it’s a means to promote gender equality. In some countries, International Women’s Day is observed as a national holiday. 

IWD is recognized as an official national holiday in Armenia, Belarus, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Laos, Mongolia, Montenegro, Russia, Uganda, Ukraine and Vietnam. 

In certain countries like Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Uzbekistan, Women’s Day has been combined with Mother’s Day, a merger to highlight the importance of women as mothers.

In China, many women are given a half-day off work, while the Italian Festa della Donna is celebrated by the giving of mimosa blossoms.

Why is it a historical celebration in Russia?

In 1917, the celebration of Women’s Day in Russia got them the right to vote. 

Women in Russia commemorated the day that year by going on strike for ‘bread and peace’ in order to protest World War I and campaign for gender equality. Tsar Nicholas II was far from happy and authorized General Khabalov of the Petrograd Military District to shoot any woman who refused to stand down. They did not back down and the protests remained and led to the Tsar’s abdication. 

The interim government granted women the right to vote as a result of their protest action.

What’s the theme this year?

Ever since 1996, each International Women’s Day has an official theme. 

The first theme adopted by the UN in 1996 was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future”.

Last year, the theme for IWD was #EmbraceEquity, and this year, the UN has designated the theme as ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ with a focus on addressing economic disempowerment. 

The 2024 campaign theme is ‘Inspire Inclusion.’

“When we inspire others to understand and value women’s inclusion, we forge a better world,” states the IDW website. “And when women themselves are inspired to be included, there’s a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment. Collectively, let’s forge a more inclusive world for women.”

Through this campaign, there is an emphasis on recognising the importance of diversity and empowerment in various spheres of society, and underscoring the pivotal role of inclusion in advancing gender equality.

“When women aren’t present, we must ask: “If not, why not?” When women are discriminated against, we must call out poor practice. When the treatment of women is not equitable, we must take action. And we must do this each time, every time.”

As per the website, people can inspire others to help forge an inclusive world by seeking out the inclusion of women and sharing knowledge. On a group basis, organizations can recruit, retain and develop diverse talent, as well as support women into leadership positions. Other areas include helping women make informed decisions about their health, providing women and girls with access to quality education and training, as well as promoting sporting, creative and artistic talent. 

The organization adds that sharing your #InspireInclusion image across social media using #IWD2024 #InspireInclusion” is also part of this year’s campaign.

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