What Is International Women’s Day?

We celebrate International Women’s Day on 8th March every year; this is a day to both commemorate and celebrate the movement for women’s right and when women are recognised for their achievements. It is a day that has been celebrated since its inception in 1909 – but what is International Women’s Day and why was it started?

The first ever National Women’s Day was observed on 28th February 1909 when the Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York and where women protested about their poor working conditions.

One year late in 1910 The Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen took place; as this event Women’s Day was established and would honour the movement for women’s rights while building support for achieving universal suffrage for women. This proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the 100 women in attendance that came from 17 different countries. No date was fixed at this time.

Further to the result at the Copenhagen initiative, in 1911 International Women’s Day as marked for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland; rallies were attended by over one million women and men. In addition to women having a right to vote and hold public office, they also demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to end discrimination on the job.

During 1913 and 1914 the International Women’s Day became a mechanism for protesting World War I. In Russia, women observed the first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February, while other countries across Europe celebrated this day on or around 8th March.

Against the backdrop of the war in 1917, Russia chose to protest and strike for ‘Bread and Peace’; this took place on the last Sunday in February, which was 8th March on the Gregorian calendar. Four days later the Czar abdicated and the provisional government granted women in Russia the right to vote.

During International Women’s Year in 1975 the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8th March.

In 1995 The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was signed by 189 governments and focused on 12 critical areas of concern and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices. This will include things like participating in politics, getting a good education, having a good income and living in a society that is free from violence and discrimination.

The 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, also known as the CSW58 which is an annual gathering of States to address issues related to gender quality and women’s rights, took place in 2014. The meeting focused on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”.

The United Nations entities and accredited NGOs from all over the globe took stock of the progress and remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals, also known as MDGs. These Millennium Development Goals have played an important role in galvanising attention on and resources for gender equality as well as women’s empowerment.

Since 1909, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension and is celebrated by women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing support and awareness of the international women’s movement has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences and has helped to make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and the participation of women in both political and economic areas.

Here at aspire cambridge, we are proud to celebrate and commemorate International Women’s Day alongside incredible women from around the world.