Today is March 8, and every year, International Women’s Rights Day is celebrated in more than 100 countries around the world; in 25 of them, it is a national holiday. Although it mainly takes on a commercial significance today, it is essential to note that this Day is dedicated to further reflecting on women’s rights in society. Its history dates back to the early 1900s, although the United Nations General Assembly did not officially recognize it until 1975, the International Women’s Year that initiated the “United Nations Decade for Women: Equity, Development, and Peace.“
Why is March 8th Celebrated?
Today, March 8th, is a day of celebration, but we must remember that this was a day of social, political, and economic struggles in the last century. Mistakenly, the birth of this Day is traced back to the fire at the U.S. Cotton textile factory that caused the tragic deaths of many female workers in 1908. In reality, this drama unfolded in 1911, when 123 women, mostly young Jewish and Italian immigrant women, died in the Triangle factory fire. These dramatic events certainly shook public opinion, but they did not interfere with the institution of this Day.
Instead, the reasons are political; in August 1907, the Seventh Congress of the Second Socialist International was held, and the most outstanding Marxist personalities attended, including women such as Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin; on this occasion, the women’s questions related to universal suffrage, a divisive issue even within the Socialist Party itself, was raised. A resolution was finally voted on whereby the Socialist parties would pledge to support and promote universal suffrage.
A few days later, during the International Conference of Socialist Women, the Socialist Women’s Information Bureau was formed, and Clara Zetkin was elected to head it. Her magazine Die Gleichheit (Equality) also became the organ of the Socialist Women’s International. In these initiatives, however, bourgeois women were explicitly excluded, but some socialists, such as Corrine Stubbs Brown, disagreed. After dissenting in The Socialist Woman magazine, Corrine Stubbs Brown chaired the Sunday conference of the Chicago Socialist Party, invited all women to attend, and declared that day Woman’s Day. Indeed, on May 3, 1908, salient issues such as discrimination and violence in the workplace, exploitation, low wages, and women’s right to vote were discussed. The first Women’s Day was then born in the United States, but later the American Socialist Party constituted it on the last Sunday in February, beginning on February 23, 1909. Each country then decided on a date to devote to demonstrations in favor of women’s rights, but these were often interrupted by revolutionary uprisings of various kinds until they were finally halted in the belligerent years of World War I.
On March 8, 1917, women in St. Petersburg staged a major demonstration to demand an end to the war; the same Day began the Russian February Revolution, which marked the collapse of tsarism. The Second International Conference of Communist Women, held the same year, established “International Workers’ Day” on March 8, later converted internationally as International Women’s Rights Day.
Why is it Important to Celebrate?
Women should be celebrated every Day, and it is right to raise awareness, promote and fight daily to ensure their rights in every sphere and every place. A Day dedicated solely to celebration, however, is just as meaningful; it reminds us of all the struggles faced and still ongoing to obtain equal rights.
Indeed, as explained earlier, this Day has its roots in the struggle for the right to vote, for participation in political life, and for achieving gender equality. Today is undoubtedly an occasion to celebrate the many successes achieved, but it is also food for thought as a reminder that the battle has not yet been won and must be fought by all and sundry with perseverance. The successes of women in so many fields, from science to art, from entrepreneurship to politics, remind us of their fundamental role in society. Indeed, they are unquestioned and critical players in progress and development. Women’s empowerment, the ability to take control of their lives and achieve their goals, can come through education, equitable access to employment opportunities, and participation in political and social life. Today’s Day can be an incentive, especially for girls and young women, inviting them to take charge of their lives and pursue their dreams.
The celebration of this Day reminds us of the importance of continuing to work for a world in which women have the same rights and opportunities as men, always and everywhere. Indeed, even today, many women worldwide suffer discrimination and violence. This Day should also be dedicated to raising awareness of these issues by raising public awareness. In addition, this day is an opportunity to promote dialogue and discussion on the problems women face every day, such as domestic violence, wage inequality, and lack of access to education and employment opportunities.
“No struggle can end victoriously unless women participate in it alongside men. There are two powers in the world: the power of the sword and the power of the pen. But in reality, there is a third one, stronger than both, and it is that of women.”MALALA YOUSAFZAI
Why Is This a Crucial Moment for Women?
Eve first ate the fruit of knowledge; women have always been unstoppable in learning: it is the most coveted dream and the most dangerous weapon. Two factors threaten theocratic, patriarchal, and fundamentalist regimes.
If once it was enough to abolish freedom of speech, in the digital age, information, and media democratization, thanks to social media and the Internet, make it impossible to stop real peaceful revolutions. It is no coincidence that in addition to words, women protest using the arts: music, dance, and other sports capable of evoking and conveying universal messages through beauty and enchantment. To these art forms, regimes have only one response: violence.
Today it is crucial to support Afghan women by all means. The international community has condemned the Taliban for “crimes against humanity.” But that is not enough; more needs to be done at the level of sanctions and actions to free women from an unsustainable dictatorial regime that is increasing the humanitarian crisis and poverty already widely present in the country. Women no longer have access to education, can no longer play sports or listen to music, cannot walk unless accompanied by a man, and cannot work. Without the female workforce, in an emerging country where more than 40 million people need health care predominantly provided by women and NGOs (with solid female participation), it is unthinkable to look to the future.
Women, Life, Freedom
In Iran, women have chosen to fight for the whole country. There is no longer a predominantly male army wielding weapons and fighting against the regime; tens of thousands of women are going to the streets fearlessly and shouting, “women, life, and freedom.” Girls are singing and dancing without hijabs, empowered by a new awareness. 97% of Iranian women are literate, 66% are college graduates, and 70% are in STEM subjects. Seventy percent of Iran’s population is under 30 and has highly advanced knowledge and skills in all fields; no weapon can kill the culture.
Widespread knowledge makes it easier to unite: if women started the battle, now there are also young men in the squares demanding the right to life and freedom like boys and girls everywhere else. Education allows Iranian boys and girls to spread videos on social media of what is happening, of inhumane violence to stop lives demanding to be lived in the name of freedom.
Today, on International Women’s Day, let us pause to reflect on all the successes and freedoms achieved through the struggles of our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. But even more, let us think about what we could do to fight alongside all those women who sacrificed themselves in the name of life and freedom. Let us remember that without women, there is no future, and without women, there is no climate justice.