International Women’s Day (IWD) is always one of our favourite days of the year. On this day, we honour all women and all those who identify as women around the world. Today, we take a moment to commemorate the achievement of women in their fights for injustices and support them to keep moving forward. Each year, we have a specific theme with its own unique meanings and purposes. For IWD22, the campaign theme is #BreakTheBias.
Let’s put #BreakTheBias in context and review the history of this day to remind us where we have come from, where we are going and where we hope to go.
rupi kaur (poet and performer)
The seeds of this day were first sown in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, higher pay and suffrage (the right to vote). Many of the protestors were European women, who had travelled to the United States seeking better opportunities. One year later, it was the Socialist Party of America that declared the first National Women’s Day.
The idea of internationalising this day was proposed during the International Conference of Working Women in Denmark in 1910 by a German Socialist, Clara Zetkin. The proposal was approved by over 100 delegates from 17 different countries unanimously; however, there was no set date for the holiday, and it was observed on several days during March.
Many European countries marked International Women's Day on or around 8th March as World War I loomed, with women holding rallies to condemn the war or express sympathy and solidarity with other women.
Shedding a light on the difficulties and inequities that affect women around the world, celebrating women's accomplishments, and starting conversations about how we may create positive change through equity and equality are the true purposes of International Women’s Day.
Many people think that this day is just for women, and consequently, anti-men. However, the truth is International Women’s Day does not undermine men but instead is a cause to unite all humankind together in a common purpose. It is about gender equality, and it’s for women, men, non-binary people and everyone else in-between: to remind everyone that there should be no inequalities between genders.
In recent years, we have witnessed a great deal of progress and seen the women's movement grow to historic proportions, from the inauguration of the first black, Asian-American US Vice President, Kamala Harris, to the election of a new women-led coalition government in Finland in the year 2019, to Sudan, where laws governing women's behaviour and dress in public were abolished.
Now more than ever, you may hear people say: “I don't believe there is any discrimination against me.” or “I don't think I should mark the day because all the males around me treat me equally” but this is indeed another common misconception about IWD - it is not only about individuals, but rather about women globally, and everyone who identifies as women too. Throughout the world, social norms, discriminatory laws, and absent human rights are still threatening the equality of all women and girls.
Here are some facts that might surprise you:
Read here for more facts and figures about gender inequality.
As you can see, the struggle is not over and, still, women are fighting to have their voices heard. Popular movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp, and the Women's March have helped to spark meaningful changes as well as demonstrate unreservedly that when we stand together, we can make a difference. The only way to move forward is to remove these societal impediments that oppress women; for example, tolerating a gender wage gap.
EMPAUA has always cared deeply about gender parity. That’s why International Women’s Day is important to us, too. It’s not just our acknowledgement and celebration of our beloved women that work at EMPAUA, but we also celebrate it to honour all women: the mothers, the sisters, the daughters, and everyone who identifies as a woman, who struggle each day to experience a time when gender is no longer a barrier preventing them from realising their full potential and to become who they want to be.
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