Today is International Women’s Day 2017.
Whilst I’m familiar with the concept and some of the messages that come out each year on this date I am less familiar with it’s history, intention and objectives.
As a woman in a good job living a largely middle class existence it got me thinking about whether this is something aimed at me (eg gender pay gap and senior leadership positions)or is it far more relevant to others in society and across the world.
According to the International Women’s Day official website the day is “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.” Their theme this year is #beboldforchange.
In my ignorance I thought the concept of the IWD was a fairly recent thing. I’m not sure why this would be and I’m ashamed really that, as a woman, I don’t understand it in more detail. It’s not after all another National Pie Day!
Apparently (and pretty obviously when you think about it) the first official IWD was held by the Suffragettes in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland and over a million women and men attended IWD rallies in these countries to campaign for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.
Even before this time, in 1908 in New York City over 15,000 women had marched to demand shorter hours, better pay and voting rights as inequality really became a matter for debate and unrest.
The following year, in 1909 the first National Woman’s Day arranged by the Socialist Party of America was observed in the US. And then in 1913, on the eve of World War 1, campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day in February 2013.
The date was then transferred to 8 March and this day has remained the global date for IWD ever since. More European countries became involved with rallies held across Europe by women to campaign against the war and to express women’s solidarity through 2014, including London where there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage. Sylvia Pankhurst was indeed arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square at the event.
In 1917 the day was declared an official holiday in the Soviet Union and remained an important part of their communist and socialist calendar. And even now the day is an official holiday in several countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Mongolia, Vietnam and Zambia and for women only in countries including China, Madagascar and Nepal.
Fast forward to 1975, and International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations, followed then in December 1977 when the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.
So, what is it’s aims and is it relevant to me?
Absolutely it is.
The UN describe is as “a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.”
I can relate to that – irrespective of pay.