International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated in most countries around the world on the 8th day of March each year. It’s a day we have come to identify as celebrating women’s achievements and shedding a light on issues that females still fight to this day.
So, how far have we really progressed with women’s rights over time?
Before we can answer that, let’s go back in time to discover the history of IWD, achievements in recent times and what goals women are trying to achieve in years to come.
The first ‘National Woman’s Day’ begun in New York by the Socialist Party of America, which proclaimed the 28th day of February 1909 a day to honour the garment workers’ who endured an 11-week strike against appalling working conditions.
A year later in 1910 at the International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, a ‘Women’s Day’ was established with the approval of over 100 women from 17 different countries.
International Women’s Day was established in 1910, 108 years ago!
Between 1911 – 1917 in certain parts of Europe such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Russia, IWD became the mechanism to fight for the right to vote, the right to work, to hold public office, to pursue vocational training and to protest World War I.
During the International Women’s Year in 1975, the United Nations began celebrating ‘International Women’s Day’. Two years later in 1977, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the 8th of March as the day for women’s rights and world peace.
At the turn of the 21st century between 2000 – 2009, IWD began to strengthen its foundation by uniting for peace, investing in women and girls, and ending impunity for violence against women and children.
The last decade from 2010 ‘til now has witnessed a rise in unity amongst women worldwide by celebrating each other’s achievements and pushing for equality in the corporate world to the sports fields and every sector in between.
Events are held worldwide with global gatherings, speaking events, corporate events, conferences and festivals. Each year has a theme, as to draw attention to issues women still face and currently fighting against.
The theme for 2018 is “Press for Progress”, a call to action to press forward and progress gender parity. The colour of the year is purple as it is historically associated with efforts to achieve gender equality.
The World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report concludes that gender parity, such as equal pay for men and women, is over 200 years away. That’s around 3-4 generations away for equal pay between genders!
This means that women, and men, need to keep pressing forward with equality in mind, to keep speaking up about gender discrimination, and to keep working together in unity to achieve the goals of parity regardless of gender.
As I settled into our Bond University International Women’s Day Cocktail Reception, I was reminded of this like-minded goal that all of us women there were striving for – it’s simply to be treated fairly, with respect and total dignity.
Over the past 108 years since the inception of International Women’s Day, the world has witnessed significant changes about society’s views on gender equality. We now have female prime ministers and presidents, astronauts and mathematicians, sports players and sports commentators, lawyers and doctors.
We have women who have the freedom to choose if they want to have babies or not without fear of their decision being judged. We have females who are the breadwinners for their families whilst their male counterparts are stay-at-home dads to raise the children.
From male-dominant societies to rural areas and the lights of Hollywood, women are standing up against being sexually harassed and girls are exposing sexual perpetrators. Women are using their voices to expose men who sexually abuse and to put a stop to gender-based domestic violence.
We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go.
“Empowering women isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do,” Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States.