International Women’s Day: When and how did it begin? - GulfToday

International Women’s Day: When and how did it begin?


This year the theme for International Women’s Day is "an equal world is an enabled world." TNS

Annually, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day around the globe, a day dedicated to celebrating womanhood.

It is a celebration of the social, economic and political achievements of women over the centuries and also a reminder that the world needs to continue championing women’s rights, female empowerment and gender equality.

Owing to prominent glass ceiling breaking feminist movements over the years and more recently the thunderstorm created by the #MeToo movement, the day has become even more significant.

It is now recognised by millions of people around the world, including men and organisations, who often felicitate and honour the women in their lives through gifts, ceremonies and programmes.

Thanks to increased awareness about the rights and status of women through social and cultural shifts, women have come a long way since the early 1900s.

While crimes such as sexual harassment, gender inequality and patriarchy continue across societies around the world, much is being done by governing bodies and international organisations to change the narrative and sensitise the public.

While some people might only be just waking up to the importance of this annual celebration, International Women’s Day has actually been around for more than a century and dates back to the early 1900s.

From its socialist roots to how it came to be observed by United Nations, read on to find out everything you need to know about the history of International Women’s Day.


Majority of world population hold bias against women

UAE has always recognised the power in women

Game changers at Global Women Forum Dubai 2020

When and how did it begin?

The first National Woman’s Day, as it was called, was acknowledged in the US on 28 February 1909.

It was catalysed by the labour movement in 1908, which saw 15,000 female garment workers go on strike in New York City to protest against poor working conditions.

Led by a Ukraine-born suffragist named Clara Lemlich, they demanded better pay, shorter working hours and improved working conditions.

The following year, The Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day in honour of the workers.

National Woman’s Day became recognised as an international celebration in 1910 after German women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin made the suggestion at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark.

There were 100 women from 17 different countries in attendance, and Zetkin’s idea was met with unanimous approval.

It was first celebrated as an official international day on 19 March 1911.

Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland were among the first countries outside of the US to mark the day.


When did it become recognised by the United Nations?

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in 1975 during its International Women’s Year.

This signified that the aims of the day — to advance the status of women worldwide and campaign for gender equality — had officially been recognised as a part of the organisation's commitment to championing human rights.

In 1996, the UN began adopting an annual theme for International Women’s Day, the first of which was “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future.”

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is "an equal world is an enabled world."

Related articles