International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”.
The United Nations first began celebrating the day on 8 March in 1975, and each year has given focus to women’s status around the globe. It has been observed since the early 1900s and is now recognised each year on March 8.
The current goals fit in with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The new agenda, which is meant to build on the unfulfilled Milennium Development Goals, has a stand-alone goal just for the empowerment of women and girls as a core means of tackling economic underperformance, global overpopulation and poverty worldwide. It also celebrates the achievements of women throughout history.
History behind this day
Its roots can be traced to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours.
- A year later, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the US on 28 February in accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America.
- In 1910, a woman called Clara Zetkin – leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany – tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She suggested that every country should celebrate women on one day every year to push for their demands.
- A conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries agreed to her suggestion on March 1911 and IWD was formed. In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19 with hundreds of demonstrations across the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In 1913, it was decided to transfer International Women’s Day to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since.
The original aim of the day – to achieve full gender equality for women the world – has still not been realised. It’s still not too late. Women should across the world come together to force the world to recognise these inequalities – whilst celebrating the achievements of women who have overcome these barriers.