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. International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe.
The idea to make the day international came from a woman called Clara Zetkin. She suggested the idea in 1910 at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. There were 100 women there, from 17 countries, and they agreed on her suggestion unanimously.
It was first celebrated in 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The centenary was celebrated in 2011, so this year we’re technically celebrating the 108th International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day is a national holiday in many countries, including Russia where the sales of flowers double during the three or four days around 8 March.
In China, many women are given a half-day off work on 8 March, as advised by the State Council, although many employers don’t always pass the half day on to their female employees.
In Italy, International Women’s Day, or la Festa Della Donna, is celebrated by the giving of mimosa blossom. The origin of this tradition is unclear but it is believed to have started in Rome after World War II.
In the US, the month of March is Women’s History Month. A presidential proclamation issued every year honours the achievements of American women.
The past 18 months have seen the women’s movement reach an unprecedented scale. In October 2017, millions began using the hashtag #MeToo on social media to speak out against experiences of harassment and sexual assault, and to denounce their widespread prevalence.
In 2018, the #MeToo conversation grew to a global scale, with countries such as India, France, China, and South Korea joining in the conversation to demand change. In the US a record number of women were elected in the midterm elections. In Ireland, citizens voted to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution, paving the way for legalised abortion.