International Women's Day is more than just a day to feel inspired and empowered; it's a day to remind yourself that women matter, that women are important, and that women deserve to be recognised. If you're wondering how to explain the importance of International Women's Day to your friends and family, we get it. Maybe you're worried that your kids will ask why the world doesn't celebrate women every day. Maybe you're nervous that your male work colleague will ask when he gets to celebrate being a man. Maybe you're just not sure how to approach the topic of sexism, of the patriarchy, and of the importance of feminism right now...
But hey, it's time. And there's no better way to start those conversations than by reading around International Women's Day.
Originally created in the early 1900s, International Women's Day, according to the official website, is "a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women
." Because the day doesn't belong to any specific group or government entity, it's the perfect way to celebrate all women from all walks of life and to unite them together to reflect on the strength and perseverance of women.
March is Women’s History Month, a month dedicated to the recognition of achievements of women socially, culturally, politically and economically throughout history. The focal point of the month is International Women’s Day, which falls on March 8 every year.
When did International Women’s Day start?
Though it’s difficult to exactly pinpoint when the day started, International Women’s Day’s roots can be traced back to the early 1900s. In 1908 15,000 women in New York marched through the city to demand better pay, rights to vote and shorter working hours.
A year later, their efforts were honoured with a National Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. In 1910 at a conference in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, Leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea of a Women’s Day to support campaigns for women’s rights and universal suffrage.
The conference was attended by 100 women from 17 countries including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament and the proposal was met with unanimous approval. The next year, International Women’s Day was observed by Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
In 1914, a march was organised in London to mark the day. Prominent suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested while she was on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.
When did the UN adopt it?
In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the UN adopted International Women’s Day – this year also saw the Icelandic women’s strike which carved a path for Vigdís Finnbogadóttir’s election five years later as world’s first female president. It has celebrated the day on March 8 ever since.
In 1996, the UN began giving the day a new campaign theme every year. The first was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future”. This year’s theme is “Be Bold For Change”.
What about Women's History Month?
Women’s History Month is reserved for the month of March in the UK, US and Australia, and takes place in October in Canada. It began in America, and evolved from the same beginnings as International Women’s Day.
President Jimmy Carter declared the first week of March to be National Women’s History Week in 1980. Seven years later US Congress designated March Women’s History Month and since 1988 all Presidents have made annual proclamations and schools have been given more resources to educate children on the roles of women in society and history.
Women’s History Month was first adopted in the UK in 2011 and this year a number of talks will take place in Parliament during the month of March.
Why isn't there an International Men's Day?
There is. Since the 1960s 'International Men's Days' have been marked by a variety of groups across the world, largely in response to the widespread celebration of International Women's Day.
The date has since been formalised as November 19 - the birthday of the father of the event's Trinidadian founder Jerome Teelucksingh - and events in more than 70 countries focus on men's health, positive role models for men, improving gender relations and highlighting discrimination against men and boys.
Since 2011, each International Men's Day has adopted a theme, for instance 'Giving Boys the Best Possible Start in Life' (2011) and 'Stop Male Suicide' (2016). The theme for 2017's International Men's Day, the be marked on Sunday, November 19, has yet to be announced.
Why is it all so important?
Of course, there have also been times in history, both recent and not-so-recent, when women have made huge contributions to the world and their achievements were not celebrated as much as a man's contributions. Women face challenges like having to balance motherhood and work (when men aren't expected to juggle both) and having to fight stereotypes. When a woman is misheard in the boardroom and tries to speak up, she's often called "bossy" or "loud" or "rude." For a long time, society has valued a woman based on how well she could birth children and run a home, but men have been expected to make the bigger contributions to society.
Acknowledgment of the women who inspire us is hugely important, no matter their walk of life. So, go forth this March 8th and celebrate women everywhere. And let us know ladies - which women in your life have influenced you?