While the fight for equality and empowerment for women seems easier, there was a time when women had to fight for something as basic as their right to vote and work. We may have come a long way from there, but there is still a lot of goals left for us to achieve when it comes to the empowerment of women. In fact, in Saudi Arabia women were granted the right to drive in 2017. It seems unbelievable, right?
That's what makes it so important to celebrate the achievements of women in all sectors - from politics to economics to cultural. Some people celebrate this special day by sending women's day quotes to the lovely women in their life, where some believe in spreading the joy by giving gifts, but whatever you do, this day deserves to be celebrated and that is what the International Women's Day stands for. Supported by the United Nations since 1975, the day has helped build support for women's rights. The day is also celebrated to remind people that only when there is true gender equality will we be able to live in a world that is not only at its maximum economic potential but also a happier and better place for all to live in. So here is the history of international women's day to celebrate womenhood and their achievements like no other!
The history of International Women's Day is pretty interesting as it is accepted by the world slowly over the years. Here's a chronology of how it happened.
On 28 February, the first National Woman's Day was observed by the Socialist Party of America at the suggestion of activist Theresa Malkiel. This day was designated in the honour of the women who had participated in the garment workers' strike in New York in 1908.
An International Socialist Women's Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. They established a Women's Day to build support for achieving suffrage for women universally. The proposal was met with overwhelming support and approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries.
For the first time, International Women's Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on 19 March after the Copenhagen Initiative. Over one million men and women attended rallies and demanded not only right to vote and hold public office but also women's right to work and to end discrimination at the workplace.
International Women's Day, during this time, became a way to protest against World War I. Russian women observed their first IWD as a part of the peace movement. In Europe, the women held rallies to protest the war.
The United National began celebrating International Women's Day on March 8.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was signed by 189 governments. This historic roadmap focussed on empowering women to exercise their choices and living a life free of violence and discrimination.
Countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Out of the 17 goals, Goal Number 5 is to "achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls."
Every year, International Women's Day has a theme to highlight what women want. The theme for this year is #EachForEqual, according to the website. The goal this year is to collectively and actively choose to challenge gender stereotypes, broaden perspectives, improve situations and celebrate the achievements of women in all spheres. A gender-equal world will have equal representation of women everywhere - boardrooms, government, media, sports, health care sector and everywhere else.
On similar lines, the United Nations' theme is 'I Am Gender Equality: Realizing Women's Rights'. This Women's day theme is aligned with UN Women's campaign 'Generation Equality', which marks the 25th anniversary for Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most forward-thinking roadmap for women empowerment.
The harsh reality is that despite some progress, change has still been hard to come by for the majority of the women worldwide. There is not one country in the world that can claim to have achieved gender equality. Women continue to be undervalued and underpaid - working more but earning less than their male counterparts. Also, forms of abuse and violence faced by women in domestic and public spaces are higher than those faced by men.
This is what makes 2020 so important. It is the year that everyone around the globe is mobilized to take action towards making the world a gender-equal place with no discrimination of any form.
Women's Day is celebrated annually with a special theme. Here is a list of year wise themes for international Women's day:
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2019 was 'Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change'.
The goal was to find innovative ways in which gender equality and women empowerment could be achieved, especially in the areas of social protection, access to public spaces and infrastructure.
2019 was also the first year when Berlin marked IWD as a public holiday for the first time.
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2018 was 'Time is Now: Rural And Urban Activists Transforming Women's Lives'.
Women's Day in 2018 came on the heels of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp highlighting issues like sexual harassment, inequality of pay and challenging situations women have to face in public spaces. The theme also highlighted the need to fight for women living in rural areas, making up over 25% of the world population, but often forgotten when women's rights were talked about.
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2017 was ' Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030'.
While women with access had increasing opportunities presented to them, it was still a reality that income inequality was just growing. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres commented that with men still in most of the leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, change needed to be brought about "by empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world".
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2016 was 'Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality'.
The Step It Up initiative by UN Women asked the governments all over the world to make it a priority to close the gender equality gap. They also encouraged representatives in power to make laws and policies that promoted women empowerment.
In 2016, The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee had said: "On the occasion of International Women's Day, I extend warm greetings and good wishes to the women of India and thank them for their contributions over the years in the building of our nation." Also, the national carrier, Air India, celebrated International Women's Day by having the operations of the longest flight from Delhi to San Francisco, of around 14,500 kilometres, handled by an all-women crew.
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2015 was 'Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!'
Celebrating the 20the anniversary of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the IWD 2015 was all about celebrating the achievements of women and how far they've come as well as making a roadmap of everything that still needed to be accomplished to achieve true equality in the world.
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2014 was 'Equality for Women Is Progress for All'.
This was also the year UN Women launched the #HeForShe campaign where men all over the world were encouraged to speak up against the injustices faced by women. After all, speaking up against injustice is everyone's duty.
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2013 was 'A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women'.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon spoke up against the violence women have to repeatedly face on the occasion of International Women's Day. He said, "As we commemorate International Women's Day, we must look back on a year of shocking crimes of violence against women and girls and ask ourselves how to usher in a better future." He added that "These atrocities, which rightly sparked global outrage, were part of a much larger problem that pervades virtually every society and every realm of life. Look around at the women you are with. Think of those you cherish in your families and your communities. And understand that there is a statistical likelihood that many of them have suffered violence in their lifetime. Even more have comforted a sister or friend, sharing their grief and anger following an attack."
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2012 was 'Empower Rural Women: End Poverty and Hunger'.
It has been shown that even in the rural space, it is the women who are the worst sufferers. While working more than their male counterparts, they received pay that was in no way equal to what the men received. They also had to face discrimination and sexual, physical and mental abuse, on a regular basis.
The UN theme for International Women's Day 2011 was 'Equal Access to Education, Training, and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women'.
This was a special IWD because it marked the 100th anniversary of the event. In the United States, President Barack Obama proclaimed March 2011 to be 'Women's History Month' to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments of women. The then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton launched the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges", on the eve of IWD.
Australia commemorated the 100th anniversary of IWD by issuing a 20-cent coin.
While we all exchange Women's Day messages on Whatsapp, it's equally important to know why we celebrate this day every year. The first International Women’s Day occurred on 19th March in 1911 because on this date Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848. But because he failed to keep his promise, the date shifted to 8th March as the UN General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for Women's Rights and International Peace in 1977.
Purple is the colour that internationally represents Women’s Day and is a colour of dignity, self-respect and signifies bipartisanship. Also, the combination of the colours like green, purple and white represents women's equality, according to the official website of IWD.
Mimosa flower is the symbol of International Women's Day. It represents strength, sensitivity and is the first one to bloom along the Italian landscape to indicate spring's arrival. The versatility of this flower makes it the pick to celebrate women's achievements while striving for gender equality.
Featured Image: Shutterstock
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