The significance of March 8 is that it commemorates the inspiring role women around the world have played to secure women’s rights and build more equitable societies. The day also marks a “call to action” to increase gender equality.
But did you know that IWD originates from the socialist movements of the early 20th century?A first glimpse of it was in February 1908, when thousands of women garment workers took to the streets in New York to protest against their working conditions, including long work hours, low pay, and the lack of voting rights. Since the strikes were still ongoing a year later, the Socialist Party of America declared February 28, Women’s Day, in honour of the anniversary of those strikes.
But it was German Marxist theorist, activist and advocate for women’s rights, Clara Zetki, who proposed in 1910 to celebrate Women’s Day internationally, at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. Around 100 women from 17 countries attended, and they unanimously agreed to celebrate Women’s Day around the world. A year later, in 1911, it was first celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
Although IWD was born from the women’s labour movement in the U.S., it took on a truly revolutionary form in Russia in 1917.
Russia, on the verge of the Revolution was facing social and political unrest in the 1910s, and it was against this backdrop, a country exhausted by war, that daily mass strikes began taking place in protest of the widespread food shortages. As men were off at war, women found themselves being the sole breadwinners – and they were not only demanding bread, but also more rights and an end to autocracy.
Russia’s 1917 IWD demonstration was held on February 23 – the equivalent of March 8 in the Russian calendar.
Today, IWD is celebrated around the world and is considered an official holiday in at least 20 countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Cambodia where they officially honour women’s rights and achievements.
So why wear purple?
Since the origination of purple, green, and white as a symbol of women’s equality from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K. in 1908, the colour purple has come to represent justice and dignity, and it has become an international symbol for women. So wearing purple means joining other women across the world in solidarity to celebrate this special day.
Wearing purple also shows one supports women who’ve broken down barriers in the career realm, including being able to work in industries that had traditionally been denied to them, particularly careers in tech! So, we wear purple to show our support for increased gender diversity in tech.
“We are all parts of a whole. Our individual actions, conversations, behaviors and mindsets can have an impact on our larger society.
Collectively, we can make change happen. Collectively, we can each help to create a gender equal world.”
So although the day was celebrated yesterday, every day can be an opportunity to create gender parity – what will you do to continue to celebrate achievements and to help forge women’s equality?