Today is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women, and part of the greater celebration of Women’s History Month. Women’s History Month originated as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress passed Pub. L. 97-28, authorizing the President to declare the week beginning March 7, 1982 “Women’s History Week.” In 1987 Women’s History Week was expanded to Women’s History Month, and in each ensuing year Congress has passed resolutions authorizing the president to claim March as Women’s History Month.
International Women’s Day, however, began long before it was formally acknowledged by Congress. In the US, it began in 1908 and was originally known as International Working Women’s Day. The inequality experienced by women led them to become more vocal in demanding change, and 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding better pay, shorter hours, and the right to vote (International Women’s Day).
In the years since those women took to the streets, International Women’s Day has become a global day of recognition and celebration throughout the world: “IWD is now an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia” (International Women’s Day).
The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2013 is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women,” while International Women’s Day 2013 has declared this year’s theme to be “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.” To find events marking International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month in your area and around the world, visit the International Women’s Day website.
While gains in women’s rights have certainly been made worldwide, there is still much work to be done: “The central moral challenge of our time is reaching a tipping point. Just as slavery was the defining struggle of the 19th century and totalitarianism of the 20th, the fight to end the oppression of women and girls worldwide defines our current century. Hidden in the overlapping problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality is the single most vital opportunity of our time — and women are seizing it. From Somaliland to Cambodia to Afghanistan, women’s oppression is being confronted head on and real, meaningful solutions are being fashioned. Change is happening, and it’s happening now” (Half the Sky). Be a part of that change.