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International Women’s Day in historical perspective

People talk of gender equality, but the world around us is blatantly biased against women where stereotypes and discrimination is rampant.

Debanjana Banerjee | Kolkata |

The International Women’s Day (IWD) was conceptualised in the US during a women’s labour movement in 1908. It all started with 15,000 working women demanding shorter working hours, right to vote, and better pay. They marched through the streets of New York City in support of their demands.

A year later, in the year 1909, the first National Women’s Day was declared by the Socialist Party of America.

Communist activist and advocate for women’s rights Clara Zetkin first proposed the idea of celebrating the day internationally, at an International Conference for Working Women in Copenhagen in the year 1910. Hundred women from 17 different countries unanimously agreed to her proposal.

The day was first observed as International Women’s Day in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. But the United States started celebrating the day only after 1975. Ever since, 8th March is being commemorated as the International Women’s Day official officially.

Special colours of International Women’s Day:

Today, even as the International Women’s Day is popular the fact remains that it many are still oblivious of its significance. There are three special colours associated with the day. These are purple, green, and white.

“Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolises hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept. The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK in 1908,” – as per the International Women’s Day website.

The need to have a special day for women:

Although people talk of gender equality and many believe that we live in a world where women are equal men in every respect, the scenario on the ground is exactly the opposite. The world around us is blatantly biased against women where stereotypes and discrimination is rampant. An average woman, some way or the other, experiences discrimination in life. Hence the need to celebrate womanhood on a special day.

In today’s hectic life where everyone seems to be in the rat race for mundane pursuits, we scarcely spare time to appreciate and celebrate someone else’s success in life. The day serves us as a reminder to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of the women and their contributions to society.

Theme of International Women’s Day 2023:

This year, the theme of IWD is #EmbraceEquity. Although the words ‘equity’ and ‘equality’ are often used interchangeably, there is a fine line between the two terms. Where equality is concerned, each individual or group is given the same opportunities and resources. Equity provides the opportunities and resources to each individual or group, based on different circumstances and requirements. For a better understanding, it can be said, “Equality is giving everyone a shoe. Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits them”.

The aim of the IWD 2023 campaign theme, #EmbraceEquity, is to let the world understand “why equal opportunities are no longer enough”. As people come from different backgrounds, true inclusion and belonging can only be possible by equity.

Feminist Gloria Steinham once said, “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

This International Women’s Day, let’s make a difference. Let’s ignite and enlighten our own small communities, as the saying goes, “Charity begins at home”. Together, let’s make the world a better place for every woman.