International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day used to commemorate and celebrate women’s social, political and economic achievements. It is also a day used to raise awareness about the work that still lies ahead in achieving gender equality on a global scale. While March 8 is now considered the official date for International Women’s day, this has not always been the case. The idea of setting aside one day every year to draw international attention to the problem of gender inequality originated in 1910, at a conference in Copenhagen. During the conference, which was geared primarily to ‘working women’, Clara Zetkin proposed the idea of having a “Women’s day”: a day that was to be observed every year, in every country, on the same day. On this day, Zetkin suggested, women everywhere would mobilize and voice concerns about issues pertinent to them; her idea was met with unanimous approval. And so, the next year, on March 19, 1911, International Women’s day was honored in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, for the first time… in big way. More than a million men and women took to the streets on the first IWD to demand women’s right to vote and hold public office and to advocate for women’s right to work and to be trained, among other things. Soon other countries also began marking the day.
Before progressing any further, it is important to note, that years before the Copenhagen conference took place, Women of Color across the world had been mobilizing and calling for an end to gender and racial discrimination with varying degrees of success and recognition.
How did it come to be that IWD now falls on March 8? The decision to celebrate IWD on March 8 is directly linked to the United Nation’s proclamation, in 1977, that the United Nations Day for Women’s right and International Peace was to be observed every year on March 8. According to UN Women Watch, this move signified the General Assembly’s recognition of the integral role women play in peace process and development programs.
The importance of Commemorating IWD. In a 1982 CBC-TV interview with Hana Gartner, Mariana Valverde, a member of the International Women’s Day committee in Toronto, highlighted the importance of International Women’s Day. She pointed out that women’s involvement and participation was critical in the fight for women’s rights: “We have to struggle for our own rights”, she stated in the interview. As well, far from being only a day of protest and demonstration, Valverde went on to explain that IWD was also a day of knowledge sharing, discussion and community building. More than three decades later, her explanation of the importance of IWD still holds.
Fast-forward to year 2015. International Women’s day has remained true to its original goal (calling for gender equality in the workplace) but it has also grown to encompass a broader range of issues and purposes. The theme this year is “Make it Happen” and it has two main objectives: to celebrate women’s achievements and call for greater equality.
This year, to help mark the occasion, the Network will profile activists and activist organizations with a resolve to “Make it Happen” in the field of Women Peace and Security (WPS). The activists profiled discuss their views on what it will take to create a more equitable world, they share stories that highlight the progress made in the area of WPS and stories that remind us that much work left to be done. They also offer words of advice for those who are eager to make difference but are uncertain about how and where to start. While most of the blog posts are structured as interviews, some will take the form of a traditional blog post. Notably, although each post focuses on different areas of WPS, they all the same goals: to inform, to motivate and to ignite change.
Be sure to visit our Facebook and Twitter pages regularly for updates on new postings. For information on International Women’s Days events that might be happening in your community please visit the International Women’s Day website.
Most of the information included in this blog was obtained from the International Women’s Day website ,the CBC Digital archives, the About African-American History website and the United Nations Women’s Watch website.
Written by Jonea Agwa, WPSN-C intern