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Origin of International Women’s Day, how it all started?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

The past few years has seen a significant rise in the way 8th of March is celebrated. There are quotes by important women in history being circulated on social media, women and men wishing all the women in their life a “Happy Women’s Day!” Some workplaces even go to the extent of having a day filled with events and activities to honour and celebrate the women of their office. Little do people understand that this international day has important cultural and political implications with respect to women, the struggles they go through in the various areas of life, especially those that make up 55% of the workforce.

It was a cold Sunday afternoon on 8th March in 1857 when a courageous group of ladies who were employed with a garment company marched and picketed demanding for shorter working hours, better pay, improved working conditions and equal rights for women. They were courageous because they knew that how they were treated was wrong and stood up for themselves. They had no idea that they set a course for millions of women in the coming century to demand for their basic working rights.

Fifty one years later, this incident inspired 15,000 women in the needle trade from New York to march demanding their equal right to vote, honouring the women who marched in 1857. This came to be known as the start of the Women’s Suffrage movement. The slogan “Bread and Roses” became popular during the march signifying the need for economic security and better standards of living.

This had a domino effect around the world and women across nations began observing a march in their countries in the coming years. In a world where labour struggles were monopolised by men where they had the “right” to fight for what they wanted, the Women’s Marches around the world proved to be a voice unheard of until now.

Since then, what started out in the USA has reached global recognition and March 8th has been adopted by the United Nations as International Women’s Day. It is celebrated as a holiday to create awareness and bring to light not just labour struggles of women but struggles of women from all walks of life.

The millennium has given this holiday a dimension where IWD now encompasses all genders that go through struggles of survival in today’s world to bring to light their existence and need for sensitisation.

This year, the theme for March 8th is “Gender Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” What are your thoughts on this? Share them in the comments below!


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