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International Women’s Day – What it Means and its History

Marked on the 8th March each year, International Women’s Day is a significant date for everyone all around the world, not just women, to celebrate the wide range of political, economic, and social achievements that women have contributed globally, and it is also an occasion to celebrate love and respect towards women.

Why is International Women’s Day celebrated?

The idea behind International Women’s Day is not just to celebrate what women contribute to society and to the world in general on a daily basis, but also to remind us of the shocking statistics in what is sometimes a male-dominated world.

International Women’s Day is used to promote and motivate change globally, and to highlight the need to address inequality and injustice. Here are some of the reasons why International Women’s Day is so important (thanks to The Independent for these statistics):

  • One in three women (33%) will have been beaten or raped at some stage in their lives;
  • 38% of all women murdered in the world will have been killed by their partner or spouse;
  • 14 million girls around the world are forced to marry, some even as young as 8 years old;
  • 80% of people trafficked around the world are female;
  • Only 24% of women globally ever become senior managers;
  • Women are still paid less than their male counterparts despite having identical skills and experience.

 

How and when did International Women’s Day start?

International Women’s Day officially started back in 1909 – approximately 105 years ago – as a result of a declaration by the Socialist Party of America.

But this particular annual event can be traced back to the 8th March 1857, some 52 years earlier, when a number of women that worked in clothing and textile factories decided to stage a protest against their poor working conditions and their pitiful wages. Things didn’t turn out well during the protest, because they were attacked by the police in order to disperse the crowds.

Fast forward to 1859, and these same women decided to form a union with the aims of protecting themselves and gaining some basic rights in their place of work.

A year before the first official International Women’s Day, around 15,000 women decided to stage a protest in New York City by demanding a number of basic human rights such as shorter working hours, reasonable rates of pay, the right to vote, and also the cessation of child labour.

Nowadays, International Women’s Day is celebrated all around the world, with many organised gatherings in place from people’s homes in Boston to luxury hotels in Bali.
In Asia, there is a strong focus on raising awareness for women’s rights and the treatment of women in general, as well as encouraging women to speak up about the achievements they have made in their home countries.
The theme for 2014’s International Women’s Day was “Equality for Women is Progress for All”, and the event was commemorated at the headquarters for the UN (United Nations) in New York on the 7th of March.

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