Tomorrow is International Women’s Day! But what is it for? For more than a century people around the world have been marking March 8 as a special day for women. Why?
International Women’s Day grew out of the labour movement to become a recognised annual event by the United Nations. The seeds of it were planted in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote. It was the Socialist Party of America who declared the first National Woman’s Day, a year later.
The idea to make the day international came from a woman called Clara Zetkin. She suggested the idea in 1910 at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. There were 100 women there, from 17 countries, and they agreed on her suggestion unanimously. It was first celebrated in 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
This year we’re technically celebrating the 110th International Women’s Day.Things were made official in 1975 when the United Nations started celebrating the day.
International Women’s Day has become a date to celebrate how far women have come in society, in politics and in economics, while the political roots of the day mean strikes and protests are organised to raise awareness of continued inequality.
Clara’s idea for an International Women’s Day had no fixed date. It wasn’t formalised until a war-time strike in 1917 when Russian women demanded “bread and peace” – and four days into the women’s strike the Tsar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.
The date when the women’s strike commenced on the Julian calendar, which was then in use in Russia, was Sunday February 23. This day in the Gregorian calendar was 8 March – and that’s when it’s celebrated today.
Purple, green and white are the colours of International Women’s Day. “Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolizes hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept. The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK in 1908.
Is there an International Men’s Day? There’s indeed an International Men’s Day – November 19. But it has only been marked since the 1990s and isn’t recognised by the United Nations. People celebrate it in more than 80 countries worldwide. The day celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families and communities, highlighting positive role models and raising awareness of men’s well-being.
This year’s International Women’s Day campaign has chosen the theme #ChooseToChallenge with the idea that a challenged world is an alert world and individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions.
“We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality,” the campaign states. “We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”
“Gender parity will not be attained for almost a century,” according to the International Women’s Day campaign, referring to the World Economic Forum, it says “none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children”.
It’s also recently been a very tough time, with data from UN Women revealing the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality . Women are doing significantly more domestic chores and family care because of the pandemic, which in turn, can impact upon job and education opportunities.And as we mark International Women’s Day tomorrow, we who are seeking and struggling for a more just, fair and humane society, a socialist Zambia shouldn’t forget that Lenin said that the proletariat cannot achieve final victory until it has achieved the complete freedom of women.
President of the Socialist Part