Happy International Women’s Day!
International Women’s Day (IWD) has marked the plight and achievements of women for more than a century.
Themed this year around “Planet 50-50 by 2030”, the United Nations-backed event is celebrating women’s rights in more than 40 countries.
The idea itself dates back more than 100 years, and has had various reasons for becoming the established celebration that it is today.
1. When was it first set up?
Socialists first put forward the idea of advancing women’s suffrage through a day to mark women’s enormous contribution to humankind.
In 1910, a woman called Clara Zetkin – leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany – tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She suggested that every country should celebrate women on one day every year to push for their demands.
A conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries agreed to her suggestion and IWD was formed. In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19.
In 1913, it was decided to transfer IWD to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since.
2. Why was it set up?
When it first began, women were demanding that they be given the right to vote – which they received in Britain in 1918 but just last year in Saudi Arabia – to hold public office and to be given equal employment rights as men. A gender pay gap persists across the globe and women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics. Figures show that globally, women’s education, health and violence is still worse than that of men.
On IWD, women across the world come together to force the world to recognise these inequalities – whilst celebrating the achievements of women who have overcome these barriers.
3. What is this year’s International Women’s Day focusing on?
The United Nations first began celebrating the day on 8 March in 1975, and each year has given focus to women’s status around the globe.
The current goals fit in with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
They follow on from an event hosted by UN Women and the People’s Republic of China for global leaders to commit to action on women’s empowerment and access to capital.
The new agenda, which is meant to build on the unfulfilled Milennium Development Goals, has a stand-alone goal just for the empowerment of women and girls as a core means of tackling economic underperformance, global overpopulation and poverty worldwide.
It also celebrates the achievements of women throughout history.
In some countries, the day is a national holiday and sisters, grandmothers, mothers, women and partners are given presents to mark it.
4. Is it still needed?
Aside from the older motivations surrounding political office and the pay gap, there is also increasing awareness of the disproportionate amount of abuse women suffer at the hands of others.
An estimated 120 million girls and women under the age of 20 have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts – around 10 per cent.
A huge majority of cases, which often involved partners and relatives, also go unreported. More than a third of women worldwide have also experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, with this being most common between a woman’s teenage years and menopause.
Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of a billion more women are in the global workforce today than a decade ago, but they are only earning what men did in 2006, according to the World Economic Forum.
And one in 10 married women are not consulted by their husbands on how their own cash earnings will be spent.
On this day, women and men are rising up, taking to the streets of their communities to march or raise awareness of women’s rights. In honour of International Women’s Day, myriad events are taking place in more than 60 countries across the globe to rile up support for several UN Women campaigns. From film festivals to marathons, participants emphasized the need to ensure that States are stepping up to their commitments, raising awareness and creating plans and strategies to empower women.