International Women’s Day is back, and with it the opportunity to stand up for women and girls everywhere.
But as International Women’s Day dominates the news, you may be asking yourself: what exactly IS International Women’s Day? How do you celebrate?
So let’s go back to the basics. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day is a global day of advocacy designed to celebrate women’s work and promote women’s rights.
Though social media has helped signal boost the day in recent years, IWD has actually been around for more than a century. According to International Women’s Day’s website, the first IWD was celebrated in 1909 by the Socialist Party of America as way to honor the 1908 garment workers’ strike that happened a year earlier. Back then it was called National Woman’s Day.
The next year, in 1910, the Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany Clara Zetkin proposed International Women’s Day be honored in every country on March 8th to advocate for the demands of women. After that, slowly but surely more countries adopted the day, including Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, which celebrated the day for the first time in 1911.
Later, in 1975, the UN began celebrating International Women’s Day as well, helping expand the reach and impact of the day. Since then, International Women’s Day has been used to speak out on behalf of women and girls all over the globe.
To help shape the conversation and pull together the community, in 1996, the UN proposed that International Women’s Day choose a theme each year.
2018’s theme is #PressforProgress. Inspired by movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, the #PressForProgress campaign encourages people everywhere to continue to speak out, stand up, and advocate for gender equality.
Past themes have included #BeBoldforChange in 2017 and #PledgeforParity in 2018.
Though International Women’s Day is observed globally, it’s not an official holiday in all countries. The United States, for instance, does not officially recognize IWD as a holiday, though Congresswoman Maxine Waters introduced a bill in 1994 proposing that the U.S. officially designate March 8 as International Women’s Day. That bill did not pass.
When is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8th.
Where is it observed?
You can celebrate International Women’s Day, well, everywhere. (Hence the “international” part of its title.) Each year, organizations host events ranging from talks, exhibits, and gatherings to help you find a community to celebrate with. You can find International Women’s Day events near you on their site.
How can you celebrate?
The ways to honor International Women’s Day are endless, and people all over the globe take a variety of different approaches to honoring the day.
In 2017, for instance, one bookstore turned all of the books by men on its shelves backwards so to highlight the discrepancy between the books published by men and books by women. The year before, Emma Watson debuted a new emoji for the #HeForShe campaign. Last year, Facebook hosted a 24-hour livestream with female entrepreneurs, policy makers, and leaders.
Also, since its creation, International Women’s Day has been used as a rallying crying for women’s demonstrations throughout big moments in history. For instance, in 1914 in London in the United Kingdom there was a march from Bow to Trafalgar Square in support of women’s suffrage, explains IWD’s website.
Recently, in 2017, the founders of the Women’s March on Washington organized a Women’s Strike to protest Donald Trump. Though, as Mashable’s Heather Dockray explains, the 2017 strike was met with criticism and a lower turnout than expected, with some saying that only women of privilege, who could afford to take time off, were able to participate, especially with just 10.7 percent of American workers belonging to unions that protect their right to strike.
Who gets involved?
International Women’s Day organizers are very clear: The day is for everyone. “International Women’s Day is not country, group or organization specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere,” IWD writes on its website.
So while International Women’s Day celebrates women, men can honor the day too. For instance, in 2016, a group of Chinese men walked in women’s shoes for a day by literally walking in women’s heels and dresses up a mountain as a lesson in empathy, and an all boys high school created a viral video about why feminism is important.
Ultimately, the goal for International Women’s Day is gender equality. And that’s something that everybody can strive to achieve.
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