International Women`s Day is observed on the 8th of March every year. It is a time to reflect on what is it to be a woman, assess the progress we`ve made, to bring about further changes or simply to celebrate womanhood.
Discrimination against women has echoed through the centuries and is common to every society. Ever since humans began to live in organized societies and with the onset of division of labour, womenfolk have been relegated mostly to doing household chores and their roles greatly diminished. They have worked alongside men in the field, yet most of their work has been confined to the four walls of the home. They had no say in important family matters, let alone in the community. There are records and findings of women who fought alongside men or had led them in battles but they were the exceptions. Women were subject to the rules and customs imposed by men. Their social and economic standings were dependent upon the fortunes of their men.
Women in general did not change much through the centuries. Most of them suffered under extreme social and economic conditions.
Industrial revolution helped brought about a considerable change in the socio-economic conditions in the West. Work opportunities expanded and with the spread of education, most women gained a sense of freedom. They became more vocal in their demand for basic rights. Women across the class divide joined forces to improve their lives. By the turn of the 20th century women made up a considerable part of the workforce. With this as the background, International Women`s Day was conceived at the second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen in 1910 to spread political and social awareness on the sufferings and rights of women. It was unanimously approved by the members present.
The first International Women`s Day was observed on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The response exceeded all expectations. Even men joined rallies in support of the movement. Right to vote, work, hold public office and to end discrimination in the workplace were demands they made. It was declared a non working day in the USSR in 1965.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 8 as the UN Day for Women`s Rights and International Peace in 1977.