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Sunday, 6 March 2011

100th anniversary of International Women's Day

The Gude Cause March in 2009

Happy International Women's Day

What is special about International Women's Day this year? 

This year, March 8, celebrated as  International Women's Day (IWD) marks 100 years of the declaration and observation of the first International Women's day. The first official celebration of Women's Day happened on March 19 in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The decision to observe an International Women's Day happened in 1910 at the second international conference of working women held in Copenhagen. At the meeting, Clara Zetkin, leader of the Women's Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day of Women's Day to press for various demands made by women. Zetkin's suggestion was unanimously approved and the decision was implemented for the first time the following year, in 1911. 

How did the idea of women's day develop? 

in 1857 on 8th March there was a march of women and children in New York, mostly made up of immigrant women and children demanding equal pay for women, the end of child labour and the right to join trade unions.  The march was met by police officers and thugs who assaulted them.  This date was remembered in years to come to commemorate these brave women.

Towards the end of the 19th century, there was a lot of turbulence in industrialised societies with women increasingly demonstrating against oppressive working conditions, poor pay and inequality. This also coincided with the rising demand by women for voting rights in various countries. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared that February 28 would be celebrated as the first National Women's Day across the country. Until 1913, the last Sunday of February was celebrated as National Women's Day in the US. Fair wages and dignified conditions of work became the focus of many demonstrations by women. Russian women campaigning for peace on the eve of World War I observed their first IWD on the last Sunday of February in 1913. However, in 1913, a common agreement was reached and the IWD was transferred to March 8.   In 1917 in Russia it was IWD that women organised a strike for "bread for our children" and "bring our husbands and sons home from the trenches", whilst on strike they demanded that the men joined them....this was the beginning of the Russian Revolution.

How did the IWD become globally accepted

The United Nations designated 1975 as International Women's Year and the same year it gave official sanction to the IWD and began sponsoring International Women's Day events. All its member countries too started observing the IWD and women's group working for change in the status of women in these countries use the IWD to focus attention on issues about women's rights and to help push their agenda. 

How is the IWD celebrated? 

The IWD is observed in over a hundred countries. In many countries including Afghanistan,ArmeniaAzerbaijanBelarus, Burkina Faso, CambodiaCuba, Guinea-Bissau, EritreaKazakhstan,MoldovaMongoliaMontenegro, Russia, TajikistanTurkmenistanUgandaUkraineUzbekistanand Vietnam it is an official holiday. 

In ChinaNepal and Madagascar, it is a holiday only for women. In several countries, it is customary for men to give the women in their lives, mothers, wives, girlfriends or sisters, flowers and small gifts on the occasion. In some countries such as Romania it is also observed as an equivalent of Mothers' Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. In Italy, men give yellow mimosas to women. In Russia and Albania too, yellow mimosas and chocolate are the most common gifts on March 8.

In Edinburgh's Old Town you can join Edinburgh Women's Aid, Shakti Women's Aid and Edinburgh Rape and Sexual Assault Centre celebrating IWD at the Edinburgh Storytelling Centre from 15:00 to 19:00

Find out more here

1 comment:

  1. More news from Guardian Blog