International Women’s Day (IWD) has existed since the early 1900s. In 1908, 15,000 women took to the streets of New York to demand better pay, equal rights and shorter working hours. It wasn’t until 1910, however, when Clara Zetkin – leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany – suggested the idea of a global International Women’s Day at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, that the IWD came to exist as it does today. The following year saw IWD take off, with more than one million people attending IWD rallies in Europe. However, by the 2000s, people had pretty much forgotten about IWDs – it was no longer a priority and many people understood feminism as something negative. In response to this decline, in 2001, IWD was reinvigorated and in 2011, 100 years of IWD was celebrated with Hillary Clinton launching the “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges”.
Nowadays, the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world are celebrated every March 8th. Yet, it is also a time to raise awareness about women’s equality. Many people may think that as more women take top jobs in politics, industry and entertainment, the fight for equal rights has been won. Nevertheless, women in Canada are still paid less than their male counterparts, they are not equally represented in business or politics, and globally, women face worse healthcare, education and greater violence than men. Therefore, IWD marks the recognition of the continued struggle for equality between the sexes and calls for positive change for women around the world.
This year, the theme for IWD is ‘Choose to Challenge’. “A challenged world is an alert world” the organizers of IWD state: “Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”