Celebrating International Women’s Day

March 6, 2009 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

International Women’s Day is a day devoted to commemorating the achievements made by women in economic, social and political spheres, whilst remembering their past struggles for equality and looking ahead to a brighter future for women across the globe. This event, which is celebrated globally each year on 8th March, can be traced back to 1909.

One hundred years ago the Socialist Party of America issued a declaration making 28th February 1909 the first ever National Women’s Day, honouring thousands of garment workers who had the previous year gone on strike in New York demanding better working conditions, universal suffrage and higher wages.

Over the coming years, National Women’s Day was commemorated across Europe, and in 1913, 8th March was agreed upon as the common date on which International Women’s Day would be celebrated.

Traditionally, the majority of the world’s societies have been male dominated. Exceptions include some native North American societies. The speed at which women have attained their political rights has varied greatly between countries, and even between groups of women living within the same country. For example, in Australia, Caucasian women were given voting rights in 1902 whereas Aboriginal women were not granted these same rights until 1967.

In the present day, the amount of rights that women have varies greatly between different societies. For example, whereas in Saudi Arabia women are still not allowed to vote, in much of Europe significant progress has been made in the past few decades in working towards ensuring women and men have equal rights. In developing countries throughout the world, much still remains to be done to ensure that women are provided with the same opportunities as their male counterparts. For example, of the estimated 785 million illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds are women.

In the UK, for example, it became illegal in 1975 to discriminate against women in the workplace. Whereas 90 years ago women were still not permitted to vote in Britain, nowadays virtually all jobs are open to them and women serve in the highest echelons of government. Nevertheless, in Britain complete equality between men and women is yet to be realised. Although the Equal pay Act of 1970 made it illegal for there to be any discrimination between genders in terms of earnings, women still earn less than their male colleagues who do the same job.

Women working full-time are paid an average of 83% of their male counterpart’s hourly wage, according to the Office for National Statistics which examined gender pay in the period between April 2007 and April 2008. A TUC report published in 2008 revealed that the disparity in pay between male and female part-time workers is even greater, standing at 35.6%. To add to the inequality that the above statistics show, it is estimated that in the UK nine out of ten single parents are women.

Complete gender equality in both the developing and the developed world is still to be realised. In the meantime, what can men in the UK do to acknowledge International Women’s day? In countries where this occasion is extensively celebrated, the tradition is for men to bring the women in their lives (wives, girlfriends, partners etc.) small gifts or flowers to show their appreciation. Perhaps 8th March is a date to be remembered, alongside birthdays and anniversaries. The favour may just be repaid on November 19th, which has also been known as International Men’s day since 1999.

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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek

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