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8 March : International Women’s Day

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International Women’s Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March. Two years later, 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 Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. In adopting its resolution, the General Assembly recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women’s full and equal participation.

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Chronology

1909   The first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
1910   The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women’s rights 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, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
1911   As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
1913-1914   International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.
1917   Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for “Bread and Peace” on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.
Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas. Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

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The UN and Gender Equality

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. 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.

This year the day falls on Saturday.

Though officially in its 40th edition, the origin of International Women’s Day can be traced back to the early twentieth century in the form of various labour movements in North America and across Europe.

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The chronology of the day’s history according to the UN is as below:

1909: The United States observed the first National Women’s Day on 28 Februray in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.
1910: A Women’s Day of international significance was established by The Socialist International, a global association of political parties seeking to establish democratic socialism, in Copenhagen to honour the movement for women’s rights. However, no fixed date was selected for the observance.

1911: March 19 was marked as International Women’s Day for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, following the Copenhagen initiative.

Over one million women and men attended rallies and demanded women’s rights to vote, to hold public office, to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.

1913-1914: During their peace protest against World War I, women in Russia observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913.

Elsewhere in Europe, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists on or around 8 March in 1914.

1917: Once again on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar), Russian women went on strike for “Bread and Peace”. On 12 March, the Czar stepped down and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

1945: The Charter of the United Nations, the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men, was signed.

1975: The year was declared International Women’s Year by the UN which began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March .

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