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Background of the International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (8th March) is an occasion marked by women’s groups around the world. This is a day of hope, a day of courage, of celebration for women who fought for 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 for women to participate in society on an equal footing with men calling for “liberty, equality, fraternity”.

Here are some of the landmarks that led to the evolving of March 8, as the International Women’s Day:

1857: March 8 was the day when one of the first organized actions by working women anywhere in the world took place, where hundreds of women garment and textile workers went on strike in New York City protesting against low wages, long working hours and inhumane working conditions. The event ended in violent struggles with police.

1908: On 8 March, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour. They adopted the slogan “Bread and roses” with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life.

1910: Clara Zetkin, a German Socialist, proposed that an International Women’s Day be observed to mark the strike of garment workers in the USA. The proposal was accepted by the Women’s Socialist International, but no specific day was fixed.

1911: On 25th March more than 140 working girls mostly Italian and Jewish immigrants died in the tragic Triangle fire accident, an event that had a far-reaching effect on labour legislation in the USA.

1917: Russian women called for a strike on 23 February for “bread and peace”, protesting against poor living conditions and food shortages. This date, the last Sunday of the month according to the Julian calendar then in use in Russia fell on 8 March on the Georgian calendar, widely used in most European countries.

1975: the United Nations began celebrating 8th March as International Women’s Day. In adopting its resolution on the observance of Women’s Day, the General Assembly of the United Nations cited two reasons:

  1. To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedom require the active participation, equality and development of women.
  2. To acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.


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