International Women's Day isn't just a day to celebrate femininity and feminism but also a day for remembering those who came before us.
Every year, we celebrate March 8 as International Women's Day. As much as it is a celebration, it's also a reminder that much work remains to be done in the area of women empowerment. It's a day to check in with our sisters, mothers, friends, and other women in our lives and community. It's a day to take stock of the ways in which we can improve their lives and ours.
Equality for all women everywhere is still a distant dream, but that doesn't mean we stop challenging the norms that keep us down. There have been some wins after hard battles for women across the world but the work is far from over. With that in mind, to celebrate the wins and to reevaluate the losses, International Women's Day helps us focus on the future.
The first gathering for International Women's Day took place in Copenhagen in Denmark in 1911. It was honored in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on 19 March. More than one million women and men attended the rallies held to campaign for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office, and end discrimination, according to Internationalwomensday.com. Unfortunately, on March 25, the same year, the tragic "Triangle Fire" in New York City led to the loss of more than 140 working women, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants.
The future is better with women at the table.— UN Women (@UN_Women) March 8, 2021
Women leaders have been underrepresented, undervalued and undermined for far too long.
This #InternationalWomensDay, claim your space: https://t.co/WTwMwJlWQ2#GenerationEquality #IWD2021 pic.twitter.com/ZGsckFMRWr
It led to attention being focused on the working conditions and labor legislation in the United States. On the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on February 23 to campaign for peace. Furthermore, it was decided that International Women's Day will be marked annually on March 8.
In 1914, women kept rallying across Europe to campaign against the war and to express their solidarity. For example, one of the demands was also for women's suffrage. In London, Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested in front of Charing Cross station on her way to speak in Trafalgar Square.
On the last Sunday of February in 1917 in the Julian calendar, Russian women started a strike to protest the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in World War I. Four days later, the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote.
Happy International Women’s Day!— Alma College YDSA (@Alma_YDSA) March 8, 2019
The first women’s day was held by the Socialist Party of America on February 28, 1909 in New York.
On March 8th, 1917 women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia, making it a national holiday.
In 1975, the holiday was made international by the UN! pic.twitter.com/wroI0PEoE9
The United Nations didn't observe the day until 1975. That year, they adopted that all member states celebrate and observe the day every year. The theme is different each year and in 2021 the theme is #choosetochallenge, according to the official website of International Women's Day. In a world where women have to work extra hard to make their voice heard, the theme encourages women to challenge the norms and fight for their place.
UN Women celebrates the "tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain."
Women have been at the forefront of the pandemic as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, community organizers, and as national leaders. However, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making, as per the UN secretary general's report.
Currently, women are Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries, and only 24.9% of national parliamentarians are women. "At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years," writes UN Women.
One of the starkest conclusions from the report shows how little young women are trusted by people across the world. "Young women face double discrimination from persisting social norms and age roles in public life. Young women are particularly underrepresented in politics. Women under 30 years of age make up less than 1% of parliamentarians globally. There are more young people between the ages of 10 and 24 today than at any other time in history," said the report, Women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.
In the throes of a global pandemic, how we act now matters more than ever.— UN Women (@UN_Women) March 2, 2021
On 8 March, #IWD2021 and as world leaders and activists prepare for the 2021 #GenerationEquality Forum, we are mobilizing to bring change.
The numbers show us a sad picture even when having women leaders has shown to give more positive results than having men. There's a bright future ahead for all women but it might take longer than we imagined.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photos by MixMedia, Pyrosky, RgStudio, MixMedia, RgStudio, July Alcantara