Fuelled by the protests and pussy hats of 2017, the last 12 months has seen an unprecedented push for the rights of women.
It has been a year defined by silence breakers, by #MeToo and Time’s Up and red-carpet protests. By Saudi women earning the right to drive. By Chilean rape victims earning the right to seek an abortion. By Lebanese men no longer being able to escape rape convictions by marrying their accuser. By “feminism” being the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s most searched word. By activism and action.
Today, International Women’s Day acknowledges that progress and embraces that curiosity.
What is International Women’s Day?
Held annually on March 8, IWD is a global campaign dedicated to celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s also used as a catalyst for accelerating gender equality, which is promoted each year via a central theme – IWD 2018’s slogan, for example, is “Push for Progress”.
No one government, group or organisation is solely responsible for implementing IWD, meaning it’s marked in a variety of different ways in different parts of the world; from marches to exhibitions, conferences to concerts. In some countries, including Afghanistan, China and Uganda, it’s even observed as a national holiday.
The Mamamia Out Loud team explain what the Time’s Up movement is actually about. (Post continues below.)
How did International Women’s Day begin?
The roots of IWD stretch back over 100 years to the start of the era of protest.
Industrialisation had seen record numbers of women make the leap the paid workforce, where they were met with segregated jobs, woeful working conditions and even worse pay. On top of this, only three countries had granted women the right to vote in federal elections – New Zealand, Australia (presuming the voter wasn’t Indigenous) and Finland – and only the latter had any female representatives sitting in parliament.
With growing discontent and no one to represent their interests, women took to the streets to have their voices heard. Among them, 15,000 female garment workers who went on strike in New York in 1908 demanding equity in the workplace; an event that inspired a dedicated day for American women’s causes in 1909.
The following year 100-plus representatives attending the 1910 International Socialist Women’s Conference pledged at their meeting in Cophenhagen to establish a worldwide equivalent, a day devoted to honouring the push for equal rights and universal suffrage.
On March 19, 1911, one million men and women rallied in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to mark the first “International Women’s Day”. And a movement was born.
That proactive, protesting spirit was revived during the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and ’70s. And it was in the thick of that, in 1975 – International Women’s Year – that March 8 was officially adopted by the United Nations and IWD went truly global.