International Women’s Day, often shortened to IWD, is celebrated round the world on 8th March every year.
It began when a German socialist called Clara Zetkin thought that women should have a special day every year to fight for women’s rights.
The first International Women’s Day was in 1911. Over a million people attended demonstrations in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to highlight sexual discrimination. They were campaigning for the right to vote and the right to work in good conditions with equal pay.
Russian women took part in the international celebration for the first time in 1913. This was as part of the Russian peace movement just before the First World War. The Russians continued to celebrate IWD and in 1917 the IWD demonstrations kick-started the Russian Revolution and ensured that IWD would continue to be observed in all socialist countries throughout the 20th Century.
1960s & 1970s
However it wasn’t until the rise of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s that IWD started to be celebrated once more outside socialist countries, in places like Europe, the USA, and Australia. The United Nations designated 1975 international woman’s year and officially sanctioned IWD.
Women's inequality today
Today International Women’s Day is still an occasion to highlight women’s inequality in society – in pay, jobs, education, opportunities and health. For example, charities such as Oxfam and Amnesty International have marked the day by calling for increased action to reduce the number of deaths of pregnant women in developing countries.
How is IWD celebrated now?
Many countries now view the day as a celebration of women’s achievements in history, science and politics. In Italy it is the custom to give women yellow mimosa flowers. In some countries like China it is a bank holiday and the United States has designated March as Women’s history month.
Is it fair that women have a national day and men do not?
Some countries such as America do celebrate international men’s day on the 19th November. It started in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999 and focuses on men's and boys' health, highlighting positive male role models and gender equality.
Is there really still inequality between men and women?
In the UK, on average women earn 25% less pay than men for the same work. And although women make up half of the UK population, only 22% of MPs are women. World wide women are among the poorest overall and continue to have fewer educational opportunities and fewer rights.