International Women’s Day 2021 UN theme:
Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world
British proto-Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft published her book A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. It was a commentary on the unjustifiable behavior of both men and women that were responsible for the marginalization of women. Wollstonecraft wrote the book as a rationalist and realist and told women they should not ask for rights and independence unless they stop depending on men in their daily business.
“My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. I do not wish them [women] to have power over men, but over themselves.”
(Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)
Many other women activists like Sojourner Truth appeared after Mary Wollstonecraft that led to the Seneca Falls Convention (1848), considered the first known event when women came out with unity and determination to demand equal rights. It was the start of Women’s suffrage movement that began to demand social, civil and religious rights for women although it took seven decades to fulfill their demands. Around 300 women gathered at the Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the convention organizers who started the meeting with the following words:
“We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed — to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to [end] such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the children of her love.”
The third major development in the struggle for women’s rights appeared in 1908, when around 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York. They demanded shorter working hours, better wages, and the right to vote. The march gained public attraction and the Socialist Party of America held the first-ever National Women’s Day a year after the march. It was Clara Zetkin who suggested in the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen (1910) to celebrate an international day of women annually. 100 known women from 17 countries had come together there and they approved the suggestion unanimously. Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland observed International Women’s Day on March 19, 1911.
Around a million women and men gathered to mark history. Thus, technically this year we will celebrate 110th International Women’s Day. It was not until 1917 when Russian women demanded “bread and peace” throughout the streets of Russia during WWI. Women had gathered the first time in the history of Russia on such a large scale. They kept marching for 4 long days when finally the Tsar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote to acknowledge their power. The date when women’s strike began was 23 February according to the Julian calendar that was in effect in Russia then whereas this was 8 March according to the Gregorian calendar. This is the reason that 8 March is considered International Women Day because women held a historical and successful campaign on this day.
The United Nations Organization that was already in the favor of a world with gender and racial parity since its establishment embraced the idea of observing an international day of women and designated March 8 for that purpose. It started to celebrate the day with a theme and announced that it would work with the full potential to eliminate gender-disparity from the world. 1975 was celebrated as the International Women’s Year by the United Nations because UN resolution 3010 was adopted by the international community that year. Further, the UN passed a resolution 31/136 and declared the years from 1976 to 1985 as the “Decade of Women”.
The UN held conferences in Beijing between 4 and 15 September 1995. The Beijing Platform for Action (1995) was concluded after these conferences which aim at removing all the obstacles to women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life through ensuring women a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making. The UN has added the mission of giving women all their rights to its Millennium Development Goals and it envisions eliminating gender-disparity by 2030.
Public Activities on International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is observed as a public holiday in many countries of the world including Russia, China, Europe, Australia, Canada, and many other countries. It is celebrated on March 8 throughout the world and activities are held like rallies for women’s rights, seminars, and conferences. The majority of Chinese women employees get half-day leave on this day.
The global community has achieved historical milestones in the struggle for the rights of women since the Beijing Platform for Action was adopted in 1995, and the current year is remarkable in this struggle.
The next generations of women and girl leaders and gender equality activists, the women’s rights advocates and visionaries on whose shoulders the advocates and activists stand would gather here to celebrate the observance with passion, determination, and fortitude.