March 8 is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity, or equality.
In 1909, the Socialist Party of America held the first National Woman’s Day, which was observed until 1913. The event promoted women’s rights, especially suffrage. In 1910, the International Socialist Congress created an international version of the U.S. holiday and on March 19, 1911, the first IWD took place in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. More than 1 million people supported the inaugural celebration.
In the following years, more countries embraced IWD on varying dates, and on March 8, 1917, Russian women marked the day by striking in protest of food shortages, poor living conditions, and World War I. That strike helped the Russian Revolution of 1917, eventually leading to Nicholas II stepping down. In 1921, the date of IWD was officially changed to March 8.
In the following decades, IWD’s popularity waned as more and more women gained the right to vote, but feminism of the 1960s coupled with the UN’s sponsorship of IWD in 1975 revitalized the movement.
IWD has a different theme each year. This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter. Internationalwomensday.com explains, “From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence. Balance drives a better working world.”
International Women’s Day may only be observed on March 8, but the #BalanceforBetter campaign lasts all year long. Experts argue balance is not a women’s issue, it’s a business issue. From boardrooms and government to media coverage and wealth, gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.
IWD supporters stress that the event is not country, group, or organization specific, and urge people to motivate others by putting their hands out, striking the #BalanceforBetter pose and posting on social media using the hashtags #IWD2019 and #BalanceforBetter.
For more information on IWD, visit www.internationalwomensday.com.