For more than 100 years, March 8th has marked what has come to be known as International Women’s Day in countries around the world. While its purpose differs from place to place—in some countries it’s a day of protest, in others it’s a way to celebrate the accomplishments of women and promote gender equality—the holiday is more than just a simple hashtag. Ahead of this year’s celebration, let’s take a moment to explore the day’s origins and traditions.
ORIGINATED MORE THAN 100 YEARS AGO.
On February 28, 1909, the now-dissolved Socialist Party of America organized the first National Woman’s Day, which took place on the last Sunday in February. In 1910, Clara Zetkin—the leader of Germany’s ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party—proposed the idea of a global International Women’s Day, so that people around the world could celebrate at the same time. On March 19, 1911, the first International Women’s Day was held; more than 1 million people in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Denmark took part.
CELEBRATION GOT WOMEN THE VOTE IN RUSSIA.
In 1917, women in Russia honored the day by beginning a strike for “bread and peace” as a way to protest World War I and advocate for gender parity. Czar Nicholas II, the country’s leader at the time, was not impressed and instructed General Khabalov of the Petrograd Military District to put an end to the protests—and to shoot any woman who refused to stand down. But the women wouldn’t be intimidated and continued their protests, which led the Czar to abdicate just days later. The provisional government then granted women in Russia the right to vote.
THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICIALLY
In 1975, the United Nations—which had dubbed the year International Women’s Year—celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8th for the first time. Since then, the UN has become the primary sponsor of the annual event and has encouraged even more countries around the world to embrace the holiday and its goal of celebrating “acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
WOMEN DAY IS AN OFFICIAL HOLIDAY
International Women’s Day is a day of celebration around the world, and an official holiday in dozens of countries. Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Uganda, Mongolia, Georgia, Laos, Cambodia, Armenia, Belarus, Montenegro, Russia, and Ukraine are just some of the places where March 8th is recognized as an official holiday.
COMBINED CELEBRATION WITH MOTHER’S DAY
In the same way that Mother’s Day doubles as a sort of women’s appreciation day, the two holidays are combined in some countries, including Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, and Uzbekistan. On this day, children present their mothers and grandmothers with small gifts and tokens of love and appreciation.
EACH YEAR’S FESTIVITIES HAVE AN OFFICIAL THEME.
In 1996, the UN created a theme for that year’s International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future. In 1997, it was “Women at the Peace Table,” then “Women and Human Rights” in 1998. They’ve continued this themed tradition in the years since; for 2019, it’s “Better the balance, better the world” or #BalanceforBetter.
1) Overall, women are more likely to take on caring roles than men. Of the 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK 58% – 3.34 million – are women.1
2) Carers UK has calculated that the economic value of the unpaid care provided by women in the UK is estimated to be a massive £77 bn per year.2
3) Female carers are more likely to be providing ‘round the clock’ care, with 60% of those caring for over 50 hours a week being female.3
4) Women are also more likely to be ‘sandwich’ carers – caring for young children and elderly parents at the same time.4
5) Caring falls particularly on women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. 1 in 4 women aged 50-64 has caring responsibilities for older or disabled loved ones.5
6) Women aged 45-54 are more than twice as likely as other carers to have reduced working hours as a result of caring responsibilities.6
7) 72% of those who receive Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for carers and worth £62.10 a week, are women.7
8) Carers of both genders, but particularly women, are likely to be in ‘elementary occupations’ – process plant and machine operative jobs, or sales, customer services or personal services.8
9) Women are more likely to have given up work or reduced working hours to care, particularly in their 40s-60s. Women aged 45-54 are more than twice as likely than men to have given up work to care and over four times more likely to have reduced working hours due to caring responsibilities 9
10) Women have a 50:50 chance of providing care by the time they are 59; compared with men who have the same chance by the time they are 75 years old.10