Contact us

Around the world on International Women’s Day6 min read

6 min read

International Women’s Day (IWD) falls on the 8th of March worldwide and sparks many celebrations. IWD is widely celebrated to help forge a gender-equal world by showcasing women’s achievements, increasing the visibility of women in the workplace, whilst also calling out inequalities.

This article looks at some of the unique ways countries across the globe choose to celebrate this special day, and how this transpires into society today.

United States

The history

Historically, IWD has been quite a momentous event within the US. Spanning back to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City to demand less working-hours, better pay and the right to vote. The march highlighted the vast level of inequality between the rights of men and women during this time. This disparity began to slowly improve in 1909 when the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day. Following on from this, by February 1980, Jimmy Carter declared the 8th of the March, and the week following it, as National Women’s History Week. In 2020, people across America, hold the month of March in high regard and see it as a time to reflect on the achievements of women. For this reason, March is also perceived as Women’s History Month.

Repercussions on society?

In the United States, IWD is seen as an important event for highlighting the unequal treatment between genders. It is common to find events happening across the country, with schools focusing on embracing equality during that week too. IWD is also supported by politicians and authorities, particularly through the organisation of events related to female empowerment. For example, every year the President of the United States issues an official statement of recognition, known as the Presidential Proclamations, which is used to honour the achievements of American Women.

Additionally, The National Women’s History Alliance recently published the 2020 Women’s History Month theme as; ‘Valiant Women of the Vote’ with the aim of showcasing and commemorating ‘the brave women who fought to win suffrage rights for women, and for the women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.”

Russia

The history

Movements towards demanding women and human rights became substantial within Russia in 1917. The exhaustion caused by the WW1 motivated Russian women to go on strike, demanding ‘bread and peace’. This movement spurred further protests, including the march of 40,000 women and men in demand of universal suffrage on the 8th of March that year. Whilst this protest wasn’t officially the first International Women’s Day in Russia, it was perceived as a catalyst for the movement that followed. This eventually came to fold once the Tsar abdicated in 1917, and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

IWD has been a public holiday throughout Russia since 1965, and now it is common to have work parties and team lunches, whilst also exchanging gifts and flowers.

Repercussions on society?

Although history has shown a strong and powerful voice of the Russian women’s fight for equality, in recent years many of the laws put in practice have placed the inequality at the forefront. For instance, in 2018 President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial amendment to a law which effectively decriminalised some forms of domestic violence.

Argentina

The history

In Argentina, IWD has been an active holiday since the early 1900s, mainly involving celebrations through exchanging gifts and flowers. However, in recent years demonstrations have taken place in demand for more policies to benefit women. For example, in 2016 large groups of women gathered outside the Congress in Buenos Aires demanding policies against femicides.

Repercussions on society?

In the years following 2016, there have been many marches in protest of unequal gender policies. For example in 2019, half a million people marched in protest demanding better gender equality, social change and equal pay. There is still a long way to go for women to gain equality within Argentina, especially surrounding their reproductive rights. Whilst abortion was only recently legalised in Argentina, in March 2020, it was one of the first Latin American countries to make this move.

China

The history

Since 1949 IWD has been an official holiday within China.  Throughout the year’s celebrations have had a strong focus on women’s health and wellbeing, for example in 1997 the IWD celebrations in China includes free medical examinations for women. IWD in 2003 was particularly memorable, as there was a procession in Tiananmen Square, where women linked hands and marched towards the Communist party meetings. China also celebrates Girls Day on the 7th of March, a day dedicated to the achievements of young women in schools and universities. However in recent years, Girls Day has been celebrated similarly to Valentine’s Day with the exchange of gifts and flowers. There continues to be an underlying theme of demonstrating empathy towards women in China, for example in 2016 a group of women walked up a mountain in women’s dresses and heels in aid of IWD.

Repercussions on society?

IWD is considered a national holiday in China and companies are advised by the State Council to offer female employees a half-day on this day. However, whilst most businesses do follow through with this, there are many companies that do not take this initiative into consideration, meaning not every woman is able to benefit. Furthermore, the indulgence of consumerism around IWD in China has recently come into question, as many companies have taken advantage of this day for commercial opportunities. For example, some brands are even going as far as renaming the day ‘Queen’s Day‘ or ‘Goddess Day’ in favour of their campaigns, rather than keeping it authentic.

United Kingdom

The history

The history behind IWD in the UK can be traced back to Clara Zetkin, the leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany. She, in 1910, suggested that every company should celebrate women on one day per year, to push for their enhancement. A conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries, including the UK, agreed to her suggestion, and IWD was formed. Following the outbreak of World War One, more and more women took part in demonstrations and gatherings in favour of women’s solidarity. It was later that year, on the 8th of March, that women marched the streets of London, from Bow to Trafalgar Square, demanding women’s suffrage. A notable moment from this event, was when suffragette and activist Sylvia Pankhurst, was arrested.

Repercussions on society?

Following the year 1918, when women were finally granted suffrage and able to vote, there have been numerous developments within society in favour of women. In recent years, you can expect to see many events being organised in aid of IWD, giving special attention to social and political issues regarding women. For example, every year there are marches, exhibitions, theatre shows, panel talks, walking tours, festivals and much more in order to raise awareness for women’s rights. So whilst there is still a while to go before the rights of women align equally with men within society in the UK, it is commonly considered a crucial topic of discussion across the nation.