By Khadija Khan
The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 by 20th Century Marxist, Clara Zetkin. Born in 1857, Wiederau, Germany, Clara was a teacher associated with the Social Democratic Party. She played significant roles in both the women’s movement and the labour movement. In the 1880’s when Bismarck went on an anti-socialist frenzy, Zetkin thought it was wiser to stay in exile. For this purpose, she shifted to Switzerland and France. This was when she wrote voraciously and even met the leading socialists of her time. With her return to Germany, she became the editor of Die Gleichheit (Equality) – The Socialists Party’s Newspaper for Women. This was also the time that Clara met with Rosa Luxemburg. Together they founded the International Women’s Congress and proposed that women’s day be celebrated in every country during International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen.
Prior to this another important development took place in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote. This was also done by the Socialist Party of America.
In 1917, a war-time strike took place where Russian women demanded ‘bread and peace ‘and four days later the Tsar was forced leave and the provision government granted women the right to vote. This was the day that women’s day came to be celebrated.
Finally in 1975, the United Nations came into the picture and formalized this celebration of women’s day. Different countries celebrate this in different ways. While Italy calls it ‘La Festa Della Donna’ and gives mimosas to the women, China gives its women half days at work. US too honours March as Women’s History Month , highlighting the various achievements of American women and rewarding them.
As of recent times, there has been a lot of talk about how equality should all encompass the celebration of a ‘men’s day’. There is indeed one and it’s celebrated on the 19th of November. However, it hasn’t been given official recognition by the UN.
This year the theme for women’s day 2021 has been decided as “Women in leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” This is because data from UN Women reveals that the corona virus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of gender equality. Therefore, special efforts must be made.