Women empowerment will be in focus again on March 8 as the world celebrates International Women’s Day. It coincides with the celebration of Women’s History Month to honor the many contributions of women around the world throughout the years during the entire month of March.
International Women’s Day is a celebration of women’s political, cultural, economic, and social achievements.
Globally, purple is the color representing women, while the symbol for women’s equality is a combination of white, green, and purple. White is for purity; green is for hope, and purple is for dignity and justice. However, the movement does not use white because the concept of ”purity” became controversial.
Celebrating International Women’s Day
This year, the theme of International Women’s Day is to foster gender equality, through #IWD2020 and #EachforEqual. It is time to celebrate the many achievements of women around the world. The United Nations spearheads the celebration, calling on nations to think over the exceptional role ordinary women made in the history of their communities and countries.
The celebration of International Women’s Day this year is about “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights, which matches the multigenerational campaign of UN Women, “Generation Equality.”
This year, the International Women’s Day aims to increase visibility by putting the focus on the inequality between men and women around the world. With the campaign theme of #EachforEqual, the UN wants to remove some of the obstacles in culture and law to see to it that women and girls achieve human rights and gender equality. They aim to build a gender-equal world where women are allowed to access the same jobs available to men.
Although there is some progress, the fact is, real change is slow in coming. Not a single country has achieved gender equality, and women still work more but receive less than their male counterparts. According to UN global data, women’s salaries are 23 percent less than what men earn. Women occupy only 24 percent of parliamentary seats around the world. Women and girls still experience violence in public places and at home.
The theme for 2020, #EachforEqual, is for “collective individualism.” It means the women and girls are parts of a whole, and their mindsets, behaviors, conversations, and individual actions affect the entire society.
History of International Women’s Day
Myths surround the history of International Women’s Day, purportedly to obliterate the fact that the celebration has socialist origins.
On February 28, 1909, New York City witnessed the first and official celebration of National Woman’s Day, which was organized by the Socialist Party of America members. The events held around the city discussed socialist and suffragist causes, some tackling labor issues. In contrast, others talked about women’s duties should not only be confined to her home but the entire country.
The concept reached Europe, and on the 40th year of the Paris Commune, March 19, 1911, they held rallies around the world to celebrate the first International Woman’s Day.
Feminist rallies were held annually. One of the most famous was the Alexandra Kollontai-led huge rally on February 23, 1917. She was a feminist from Russia. Outside Russia, that specific date, which was according to the Julian calendar of Russia, fell on March 8, 2017. The demonstration created a series of events that caused Czar Nicholas II to abdicate. Likewise, it led to the start of the Russian Revolution, the formation of a constituent assembly, and women gaining the right to vote.
Thus, in 1911, Woman’s Day became an official holiday in the Soviet Union, after the declaration of Vladimir Lenin. The holiday was adopted in China and Spain as well. From being “Woman’s Day,” it became “Women’s Day around 1945, but only socialist countries celebrate International Women’s Day until the middle of the 1970s.
1975 was International Women’s Year. On March 8 of the same year, the United Nations General Assembly started celebrating International Women’s Day. More than 100 countries around the world celebrate the holiday since 2014, with 25 countries recognizing the day as an official holiday.
While other countries still commemorate the day for its political beginnings, other countries have commercialized the event. In China, the recent focus was on beauty and shopping events for women. In Argentina, it’s like Valentine’s Day once again, with men presenting the women in their lives with gifts and flowers.
For centuries many women have made a difference in many aspects of society around the world. They gave inspiration and touched the lives of many people. Here are some of them:
- Jane Austen: author of Emma, Mansfield Park, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey
- Florence Nightingale: Italian war-hero nurse and helped improve the state of healthcare around the world
- Emmeline Pankhurst: founding member of the Suffragettes in the UK. During WWI, she encouraged fellow members to assist in the war effort, taking on jobs that were generally done by men.
- Marie Curie: Polish scientist, who, together with her husband, discovered radioactivity and the chemical elements, radium, and polonium, which led to the development of X-ray.
- Mother Teresa: a Catholic nun who dedicated her life to helping the poor wherever she goes.
- Margaret Thatcher: the first female prime minister of Britain
Many of these strong women have given statements that gave inspiration to more women around the world. These are direct quotes from some of the most influential women throughout the years.
- “Extremists have shown what frightens them most: A girl with a book.” – Malala Yousafzai
- “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”– Eleanor Roosevelt
- “You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.” – Aung San Suu Kyi
- “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa
- “One is not born a woman. One becomes one.” – Simone De Beauvoir
- “In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman.” – Margaret Thatcher
- “There’s something so special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.” – Rihanna
- “Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” – G.D. Anderson
- “We need to live in a culture that values and respects and looks up to and idolizes women as much as men.” – Emma Watson
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