100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day

March 8, 2011 will mark the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day of recognition.  Thousands of events are held around the world to celebrate women’s achievements, discuss issues and inspire women. This year’s theme for IWD is “Equal access to education, training and science and technology:  Pathway to decent work for women.”

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, proposed the idea of an International Women’s Day at the 2nd International Conference of Working Women.  The conference attendees, more than 100 women from 17 countries, unanimously approved the suggestion.  The very first IWD was launched the following year on March 19th in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.  More than one million women and men attended rallies supporting women’s rights. In 1913, IWD was moved to March 8th, which has remained the global date ever since.

In 1975, during International Women’s Year, the United Nations began celebrating March 8th as IWD. The General Assembly cited two reasons for adopting its IWD resolution:

  • To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms requires the active participation, equality and development of women; and
  • To acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.

The day has traditionally been marked with a message from the U.N. Secretary-General.

While women around the world have made great strides since the first IWD, women still do not receive equal pay to that of their male counterparts, they are underrepresented in business and politics, women’s education and health are worse than men’s, and rates of violence against them are higher.  BPW Foundation continues to work to transform workplaces in the United States by strengthening the capacity of organizations and businesses to create work environments that are inclusive and that value the skills and contributions of working women.

So in March, as we begin celebrations for Women’s History Month in the United States, let’s think globally.  There are 154 IWD events across America from Alaska to Florida listed on the IWD website at www.internationalwomensday.com. Be a part of the global sisterhood!

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