International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8 March as a day of celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women around the world. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.
When women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.
The choice of that date is related to the first mass protest of women workers from clothing and textile factories against the very poor working conditions and low wages, held in New York City on the 8 March 1857. The protesters were attacked and dispersed by police. Two years later in the same month these women established their first labor union. More protests followed on 8 March in subsequent years, most notably in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.
The first IWD was observed on 28 February 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. On 27 August 1910 the first international women's conference was held in Copenhagen, organized by the Socialist International and an “International Women's Day” was established, which was submitted by the important German Socialist Clara Zetkin to celebrate the day of women workers and their international solidarity in order to mobilize women workers to struggle for equality with men in all spheres of life. The following year – 1911, IWD was marked by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, and in1913 in France and Russia. In the West, International Women's Day was commemorated during the 1910s and 1920s, but dwindled. It was revived by the rise of feminism in the 1960s
The participants in the Second International Conference of Women Communists in 1920 in Moscow recommended the date of the International Women’s Day to be the 8 March, as it is related to historic events from the end of the 19 and the beginning of the 20 century. On that day in 1890 a demonstration of women workers was severely repressed in Chicago, while in 1917 in Peterburg was held a demonstration of women workers against famine, war and tsarism. Following the October Revolution, 8 march was made an official holiday, but was a working day until 1965. In 1965 by a decree the International Women's Day was declared as a non working day in the USSR “in commemoration of outstanding merits of the Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Motherland during the Great Patriotic War, their heroism and selflessness at the front and in rear, and also marking the big contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples and struggle for the peace”.
In Bulgaria 8 March was first observed in 1911 in close socialist circles with lectures, while the first public celebration was in 1915. It was celebrated as a national holiday after 9 September 1944. In enterprises, factories and institutions were organized meetings to report on the contribution of women in production, culture, science and social life. After 1960 8 March became a holiday of women of all ages, while for children it is Mother’s day.
Today the International Women's Day is commemorated in many countries around the world. In 1975, during International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day on 8 March. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions. In adopting its resolution, the General Assembly recognized the role of women in peace efforts and development and urged an end to discrimination and an increase of support for women's full and equal participation.
The day remains an official holiday in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China (half a day), Cuba, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, and is observed by men giving the women in their lives - mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc., flowers and small gifts. In some countries it is also observed as an equivalent of Mother's Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
Started as a political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries (primarily Russia and the countries of former Soviet bloc). In some celebrations, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their sympathy and love to the women around them - somewhat similar to Western Mother's Day and St Valentine's Day mixed together. In others, however, the political and human rights theme as designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.
Compiled from the internet