International Women's Day 2020

Posted by Ellie Buckley, Friday March 6 2020

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This year’s International Women’s Day theme is "an equal world is an enabled world”. On the 8th of March we are celebrating the 109th Anniversary. This day is marked around the world and has been every year since 1911. It's a day that calls for gender parity, while also globally celebrating the achievements of women socially, culturally, economically and politically. 

“International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continues to grow from strength to strength.”

In New York, in 1908, 15,000 female garment workers marched demanding shorter working hours, better pay, poor working conditions and the right to vote. It was only a year later when the American Socialist Party declared the first National Women’s Day.

In Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland it was first celebrated in 1911. The UN started celebrating the day in 1975 during its International Women’s Year, which made International Women’s Day Official.

The day on which International Women’s Day has been acknowledged has differed between countries up until 1917. In 1996 the UN first adopted a themed International Women’s Day, the first of which was "Celebrating the Past, Planning for the future”. Other themes have been "Women at the Peace table", "Women and Human Rights", and “Women Free of Violence Against Women”.

A timeline history of International Women's Day.

1908 – Demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote 15,000 women went on strike and marched through New York City. It was the oppression and inequality of women which led them to become more active and vocal in their campaign for change.

1909 – On the 28th of February, following a declaration by the America Socialist Party, the first National Women's Day was observed across the US. National Women's Day was celebrated on the last Sunday of February until 1913. 

1910 – In Copenhagen, a second International Conference of Working Women was held. Clara Zetkin tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. “She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands.” This proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by over 100 women from 17 different countries.

1913-1914 – On the last Sunday of February 1913, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day, on the eve of World War 1. The day was also transferred to the 8th of March in 1913 and has remained on this date globally ever since. "In London in the United Kingdom, there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women's suffrage on the 8th of March 1914. Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square."

1917 – Russian women began to strike for “bread and peace”, on the last Sunday of February, in response to over 2 million Russian soldiers dying in World War 1. Opposed by political leaders, the women continued to strike until the Czar was forced to abdicate four days later and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

1975 – The United Nations celebrated International Women's Day for the first time. Then in December 1977, 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 the Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

1996 – The adoption of an annual theme was commenced by the UN. These themes have included "Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future", "Women at the Peace table", "Women and Human Rights", "World Free of Violence Against Women", "Empower Rural Women, End Poverty & Hunger" and "A Promise is a Promise – Time for Action to End Violence Against Women".

2000 – The world had moved on, and International Women's Day activity had stalled in many countries, feminism wasn't a popular topic. It needed re-ignition, urgent work required to be done, battles had not been won, and gender parity had still not been achieved.

2001 – digital hub was launched to re-energiser the day. Each year the IWD website sees vast traffic and is used by millions of people and organisations all over the world to learn about and share IWD activity. The IWD's charity partnerships are WAGGGS and Catalyst Inc. The website adopts an annual campaign theme and provides a framework and direction for annual IWD activity and takes into account the broader agenda of both celebrations as well as a full call to action for gender parity. 

2011 – This was the 100 year centenary of International Women's Day. March 2011 was proclaimed Women's History Month by Barack Obama in the US, calling American's to mark IWD by reflecting on 'the extraordinary accomplishments of women' in shaping the country's history. In the UK Annie Lennox lead a grand march across one of London's iconic bridges raising awareness in support for global charity Women for Women International. 

2020 and beyond – There has been a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about the equality and emancipation of women. Many may feel as though all the battles have been won; however, the 1970's feminists know too well the longevity and inherent complexity of patriarchy. With women in the boardroom, greater equality in legislative rights and an increased amount of women's visibility as impressive role models, one could think that women have gained true equality. Unfortunately, the fact is that women are still not paid equally to their male counterparts, are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is worse than that of men. However, significant improvements have been made, and we do now have female astronauts and prime ministers. Schoolgirls are welcomed into university, and women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so, each year the world inspires women and celebrates their achievements.

International Women’s Day is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally!
Make everyday International Women's Day.
Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

Watch International Women’s Day videos

Watch some of the inspiring and thought-provoking International Women’s Day videos available from around the world, or use them as great discussion starts and resources.

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