Every year, International Women's Day is celebrated in various countries across the world. For women in countries across the globe, it is an occasion that celebrates their spirit and their role in the society. It honors the the struggle, the tireless hard work and contribution of all women in their respective fields everywhere in the world and signifies their freedom, rights, and recognition in a patriarchal order. It is the day when we pay a tribute and hand over small gifts of appreciation to our mothers, sisters and all females who are a part of our lives.
The industrial boom at the turn of the 20th Century saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. This was a time when women began to step out of the confines of their homes and work in the various mills and factories to supplement the family income. But gender oppression and inequality in workplace coupled with unjust working conditions spurred them to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change. Further, with economic emancipation women began to be more self sufficient and conscious of their rights that had been denied to them till then in a predominantly patriarchal set up. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. This was the time when the idea of having an international women's day was first put forward. This set the stage for bigger things to come.
In the United States, National Women's Day was observed on February 28th, 1909 following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. The following year, the Socialist Party organized the first international women's conference Copenhagen and proposed to establish an 'International Women's Day' to honour the women's rights movement and to assist in 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 to be elected to the Finnish parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.
Following the decision agreed at Copenhagen in 1910, International Women's Day (IWD) was observed for the first time on 19 March, 1911 in places like Austria, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and some other European countries. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. In Germany and Austria, the event was a resounding success. The date of the celebration was chosen by German women because, on 19 March, 1848, the Prussian king had promised many reforms in the face of an armed uprising, including an unfulfilled voting right for women. Hence, a million leaflets were distributed throughout Germany before IWD in 1911 calling for action on the right to vote for women. In Germany meetings were organized everywhere, in the small towns and even in the villages. These were attended both by women and men. For a change, many men stayed home to take care of their children while their wives went to the meetings.
Henceforth, International Women's Day (IWD) began to be celebrated by women across Europe. But the two World Wars and many other factors resulted in the dwindling of the holiday in later years. It was not until the 1960s, when the feminist movement reared its head, that it gathered momentum again. In 1975, which had been designated as International Women's Year, the United Nations gave official sanction to and began sponsoring International Women's Day.
Today, International Women’s Day is observed every 8th March in many prominent nations of the world. It is now an official holiday in Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. In the modern world, it is an occasion to recognize the achievements of women around the world regardless of nationality, ethnic background, culture, economic status or political beliefs.