International Women’s Day 2017

In the United States, the month of March is Women’s History Month, and although internationally there is no official women’s history month, there is the United Nations recognized International Women’s Day on March 8th. Here’s a timeline of events that led to International Women’s Day as describe by the United Nations:

  • 1909   The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honor of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
  • 1910   The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honor the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
  • 1911   As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
  • 1913-1914   International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.
  • 1917   Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
  • 1975 During International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March.
  • 1995 The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, focused on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.
  • 2014 The 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) – the annual gathering of States to address critical issues related to gender equality and women’s rights — focused on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. UN entities and accredited NGOs from around the world took stock of progress and remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs have played an important role in galvanizing attention on and resources for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

So why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day? Studies show that women are leaders in economic, social and political development. Unfortunately, an estimated 31 million girls of elementary school age are out of school, 39,000 girls are married too young every day, an estimated 1 in every 3 women will experience physical or sexual violence in their life, 350,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth every year, and women are greatly underrepresented in governance, business, and STEM fields. By recognizing the accomplishments women have made, continue to make, and by understanding that women are needed in all forms of development, we are recognizing the current gaps and improvement needed to fulfill women’s rights around the world. The UN has recognized these needs in their Sustainable Development Goals (or SDGs); specifically goals 4 and 5 focus on women and girls’ rights to be achieved by 2030:

  1. Achieve Gender Equality and empower all women and girls.
  2. Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.

So today, and every day, let’s celebrate women’s history, recognize women’s present struggles, and advocate for women’s futures.