Around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) marks a celebration of the economic, social, cultural and political achievements for women.
The first IWD was held on 19 March 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark and further European countries. German women selected this date because in 1848 the Prussian king had promised the vote for women. Subsequently over one million leaflets calling for action on the right to vote were distributed throughout Germany before IWD in 1911. Now IWD is always celebrated on 8 March and is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday. Women in every country, often divided by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate this important date that represents equality, justice, peace and development.
International Women’s Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women seeking to participate equally in society on an equal footing with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for “liberty, equality, fraternity” marched on Versailles to demand women’s suffrage.
The idea of an International Women’s Day first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies.
Until women are fully represented at senior leadership levels of public, professional and economic life, women do not have equal rights nor an equal voice.