An Ode to International Women

In March of each year, the world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD). This March 8th event is commemorated by millions of people from across the globe and for more than 100 years, people have been marking Women’s Day, honouring and celebrating the achievements of women throughout history. Here’s how this day came about and how it is celebrated.

The History and Meaning of International Women’s Day

 International Women’s Day was created as a result of several global movements of the early twentieth century, which sought to empower women and support women’s rights and movements. The final form of the IWD took some years to be finalised,  with the original events taking place across several continents.   

 Although it was commonly celebrated in late February or early March, the original International Women’s Day celebration had no particular date. In recent years, International Women’s Day has been embraced by many political groups, corporations, and other groups.

 International Women’s Day is dedicated to;

  • celebrating women’s achievements
  • raising awareness about women’s equality
  • lobbying for accelerated gender parity
  • fundraising for female-focused charities.

Rallies and protests have been a part of the history of Women’s Day since its inception, and have continued to form part of the contemporary versions of International Women’s Day celebrations. The very date of International Women’s Day was partly chosen to mark one of the most important women’s protests which took place on this day- a protest in Russia in 1917, which saw women take to the streets to demand the end of war shortages and World War I.  The 2022 version IWD saw protests and rallies in Argentina, Chile, Spain, Australia, Turkey, Romania, many dedicated to protesting gender-based violence, inequality, women’s rights, political bias, and other causes.

 In some regions, the IWD is celebrated as a public holiday, while for other regions, International Women’s Day remains a pure celebration of women’s roles, achievements, and importance in society. Events commonly include rallies, protests, workshops, lectures, gift-giving, etc.

 2022 saw South Africa celebrate International Women’s day in it’s unique way, and the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities formed part of the driving force behind the celebrations. For the 2022 iteration of IWD,  the department encouraged South Africans to celebrate this day and “celebrate the progress made towards achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment but also to critically reflect on those accomplishments and strive for a greater momentum towards gender equality worldwide.”

South Africa also celebrates its own National Women’s day on the 9th of August of every year. This day honours the Women’s March which took place in 1956. This march was held to protest new governmental legislation which sought to increase governmental control over the movement of black women. Around 20 000 women took part in this march in support of women’s rights.

With a varied history across the world, International Women’s day has grown to have different meanings for different people, but with an ultimate aim – honouring women across the world.

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