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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why Do We Celebrate International Women’s Day?

The International Women’s day (IWD) is celebrated each year on 8th March. However, this year the IWD will be observed on the 6th March, 2008 at the United Nations. The theme for this year 2008 is: “Investing in Women and Girls”.

On International Women’s Day the women are recognized for their achievements without regard to ethnic, national, linguistic, cultural, economic or political divisions all over the world and thus is a day that is celebrated in many countries all around the world. This is an occasion for us to look back on past struggles and accomplishments and for looking forward to untapped potential and opportunities awaiting future generations of women.

It was in 1975, that the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8th March. This was followed, two years later (Dec, 1977), by the General Assembly adopting 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. This resolution recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women’s full and equal participation.

It was in the early twentieth century that International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements in North America and across Europe.

1909: On 28 February, The first National Woman's Day was observed in the United States, in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.

1910: The Socialist International held a meeting in Copenhagen to establish an International Women's Day to honour the movement for women's rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. This proposal had unanimous approval of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.

1911: The Copenhagen initiative marked the International Women's Day for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.

1913-1914: International Women's Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.

1917: Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike.

The growing international women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women's conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation in the political and economic arenas. Increasingly, International Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

The United Nations and Gender Equality

The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide.
Over the years, the UN and its technical agencies have promoted the participation of women as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. The empowerment of women continues to be a central feature of the UN’s efforts to address social, economic and political challenges across the globe.


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