International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

International Womens Day Logo

On March 8th of each year, the world now recognizes and celebrates International Women’s Day. This is a day set aside, officially observed in many countries, to commemorate the accomplishments, remember the struggles, and renew promises to uplift women everywhere. While the world has made great progress in bringing equality between the sexes, there are still vast differences compared to men in terms of violence, working hours and conditions, wage, voting rights, and many other issues.

According to the United Nations, it all started on March 8th, 1857, in New York City. Women garment workers, those who worked in the clothing and textile factories, staged a protest against inhumane work conditions and wages that were too low. Police dispersed them, but two years later, these women formed their own labor union to fight for basic workers’ rights. However, some people believe that there isn’t enough evidence to support this event, and that this was a myth to get the women’s rights ideas to stick outside of the Soviet history and the Socialist beliefs that really started it all.

The women protesters in 1908 adopted the slogan "Bread and Roses," with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life. One woman's sign read ''We want bread, but we want roses, too!'' Photo by Dusan Petricic via the NY Times.

The women protesters in 1908 adopted the slogan “Bread and Roses,” with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life. One woman’s sign read ”We want bread, but we want roses, too!” Photo by Dusan Petricic via the NY Times.

51 years later, on March 8, 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding better work conditions, shorter hours, more pay, and voting rights. Later, in May of that year, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday of February for the observance of National Women’s Day.

On the following year, the first National Woman’s Day was celebrated in the United States, and until 1913, it continued to be celebrated on the last Sunday of February. In 1911, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland recognized an International Women’s Day. In 1977, the United Nations finally recognized it as a Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

Today, it is celebrated in many different ways around most of the countries of the world. In my mother’s country, Indonesia, Stefani Gracia wrote a song titled “Lebih dari Berlian,” which means “more than a diamond.” In China, women workers are given a half-day off in many cases, and sometimes even gifts. Romanians hold women-only dinners, while Russian women typically celebrate the occasion at home. Italian women are given flowers, usually yellow in color. In India, the entire week holds events for women sponsoring empowerment.

Christian "Krzysiek" Eilers is a twenty-something who constantly likes to look up the next flight out of JFK. His life goal is to visit every country in the world; as a young adult working full-time, he often settles on visiting the near countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean, knocking these off the list as it is less of a financial strain than Europe or Asia. Caffeine is his vice, and if he doesn't have a coffee in his hands, then it's probably a green tea. A native of New York City, when he is not traveling, he can find an abundance of cultural influences right in his own city, enough to keep him satisfied until the next country's beckon cannot be ignored any longer.

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