It’s 2018. Women across the globe have made admirable strides and demonstrated beyond a doubt that they are capable of matching their male counterparts in nearly every field once they are given the appropriate exposure and opportunity. So, why is it still important for us to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD)?
For one, while achievements have been made with respect to women’s rights and development, the original aim to achieve gender equality for women has not yet been realised. For example, the realities women face when travelling alone and how to stay safe remain a burning and lingering problem. Also, it was revealed by Ladbrokes, EasyJet and Virgin Money in January 2018 that there is still a pay gap of over 15% in favour of men. Notably, this story is told around the world for a number of reasons, including the lack of female representation in politics and business. However, the biggest blunder is when the World Economic Forum 2017 found out that at our current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 200 years to close, which is a big decline as compared to its 2016 estimation of 83 years.
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The first National Woman’s Day was in the United States on 28 February 1909. Organised by the Socialist Party of America, it was designated that this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women marched through the city demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. And women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of February until the start of World War I.
In 1910, the idea of to have an IWD was proposed to honour the movement for women’s right and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs – and including the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. Yet, no fixed date was selected for the observance. On the eve of World War I campaigning for peace, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Four years later in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, the women textile workers in Russia began a demonstration, marking the beginning of the Russian Revolution. At Saint Petersburg, women strike for “Bread and Peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War I – demanding the end of the war, the end to Russian food shortages and the end of czarism. Although the revolutionary action was foreseen, nobody expected that the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote, inaugurating the revolution. The date the women’s strike commenced was Sunday 23rd February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, which is 8th March on the Gregorian calendar.
The Colour Purple
Purple is a colour for symbolising women. Historically, the combination of purple (justice and dignity), green (hope) and white (purity) were used to symbolise women’s equality by the Women’s Social and Political Union in the United Kingdom in 1908. During the second wave of feminism, the colour yellow was introduced to represent a “new dawn” and the colour white was no longer used due to “purity” being a controversial concept. Today, a combination of purple and yellow is used by many progressive contemporary feminists.
The United Nation’s roles and influences
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. In 1975, the UN began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March. To date, 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. Then in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by the Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. The UN commenced the adoption of an annual theme in 1996 – which was “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future”. This theme was followed in 1997 with “Women at the Peace table”, and in 1998 with “Women and Human Rights”, and in 1999 with “World Free of Violence Against Women”, and so on each year until the current. More recent themes have included, for example, “Empower Rural Women, End Poverty & Hunger” and “A Promise is a Promise – Time for Action to End Violence Against Women”.
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By the new millennium, IWD activity around the world had stalled in many countries. The world had moved on and feminism has become just another topic that people don’t find the need to bring up. IWD needs to be re-ignition. There was urgent work to do – battles had not been won and gender parity had still not been achieved.
#PressforProgress for 2018
With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away, there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity. Of course, realistically, gender parity doesn’t happen overnight but the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support. So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
Joining the cause
IWD is not a country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Individually, we’re one drop but together we’re an ocean. Commit to a “gender parity mindset” via progressive action. Let’s all collaborate to accelerate gender parity, so our collective action powers equality worldwide. Choose your action HERE