It is no secret that the future is female and the month of March is marked as Women’s History Month all across the globe where International Women’s Day commemorates the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women. The day marks a call to a gender equal world – free of bias, stereotypes and discrimination and one that is diverse, equitable, inclusive while differences are valued and celebrated.
Each year, International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century across North America and Europe. UNESCO states, “The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on February 28 1909, which the Socialist Party of America dedicated in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York where women protested against harsh working conditions. In 1917, women in Russia chose to protest and strike under the slogan “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Their movement ultimately led to the enactment of women’s suffrage in Russia.”
It was in 1945 that the Charter of the United Nations became the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men but it was only on March 8 during International Women’s Year in 1975 that the UN celebrated its first official International Women’s Day.
Later in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that proclaimed a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. Finally, following its adoption by the United Nations in 1977, International Women’s Day became a mainstream global holiday where member states were invited to proclaim March 8 as an official UN holiday for women’s rights and world peace.
UNESCO states, “International Women’s Day is an occasion to celebrate the progress made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment but also to critically reflect on those accomplishments and strive for a greater momentum towards gender equality worldwide. It is a day to recognize the extraordinary acts of women and to stand together, as a united force, to advance gender equality around the world.”
The United Nation’s theme for this year’s observance is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow” in recognition and celebration of the women and girls who are leading the charge on climate change adaptation and response and to honour their leadership and contribution towards a sustainable future.