Editor’s Note: Amy Capetta has been writing health and lifestyle articles for over 15 years. Her work has appeared in Weight Watchers, Woman’s Day and Prevention, as well as on AOL, Redbookmag.com, TODAY.com and Yahoo Health.
BY AMY CAPETTA
On Thursday, March 8th, people from around the globe will be celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD), an annual event that honors the various achievements—social, economic, political, and cultural—that females have accomplished. From Australia to America, women will be participating in marches, rallies, conferences, networking events, and online discussions to reflect on the advancements that have been made over time, as well as steps that can be taken in order to continue to promote gender equality.
Here, we’ve highlighted the background of the day, this year’s message, how millions of women around the world will be encouraging greater diversity, and how you can take action on IWD.
The History of International Women’s Day
The first fight for women’s rights dates back to 1908, where 15,000 women took to the streets in New York City to protest for better pay, short working hours, as well as the right to vote. The following year, the Socialist Party of America declared the last Sunday in February as the first National Women’s Day in honor of the strike that took place the previous year.
Clara Zetkin in Moscow, circa 1900
Then, in 1910 during an international conference dedicated to working women, a female named Clara Zetkin proposed an annual Women’s Day event be held on the same day in other countries around the world. It was a unanimous decision among the more than 100 women from 17 countries (which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament). The first International Women’s Day was observed one year later by over one million women and men who attended rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. And their cause had expanded—these pioneers were also protesting for women’s right to vocational training and to end job discrimination.
Between 1913 and 1914, the date was changed from March 19 to March 8. The United Nations (UN) celebrated this annual event for the first time in 1975.
Gloria Steinem chats with the marchers in midtown Manhattan prior to the start of the International Women’s Day March in 1975.
This Year’s Theme
On the heels of the popular #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the 2018 campaign is being summed up in a hashtag: #PressForProgress. “I feel pressing for progress has nothing to do with us trying to prove anything,” says Amy Jo Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Renegades Write The Rules: How the Digital Royalty Use Social Media to Innovate, who will be one of four female speakers in an online conversation hosted by Ernst & Young on IWD. “I think the progress is really about committing to yourself and making sure you’re progressing in your own life.”
Martin, who was named the third most powerful woman on Twitter by Forbes, believes there has been a shift in energy from prior celebrations where women are finally ready to put their ideas—whether to enhance their personal or professional lives—into motion. “It’s not just a discussion, it’s about action,” she tells WomansDay.com. On Thursday, the entrepreneur will be sharing her personal journey, along with offering the tangible lessons she has learned from interviewing successful and influential leaders, such as Arianna Huffington, Mark Cuban, and Tony Robbins. “I distilled down and asked them how they navigate from dreaming to doing, from ideas to action.”
And yes, this is a day for men, as well. “In my career, I worked primarily in male dominated industries—technology, professional sports, and entertainment—and most of mentors are men—and I’m very grateful,” adds Martin. “It’s definitely a collective effort that needs to happen.”
How Women Around the World Are Recognizing the Day
While empowering events will be taking place worldwide—including a story-telling and art exhibition charity in London, a night of music, poetry, and inspirational speeches at a theater in Windhoek, Namibia, and a six-day festival in the United Kingdom—some countries also have special traditions. For example, in Ukraine, Armenia, Moldova, and Russia, IWD is considered a national holiday where government offices, schools, and stores are closed. Women are gifted with flowers in Ukraine while men in Russia give females postcards that are designed with spring flowers, as well as images of a mother and child. And similar to Valentine’s Day in the United States, chocolate is a popular gift for women on IWD in Italy and Albania.
How You Can Mark the Occasion
Numerous types of female-focused events—such as lectures, workshops, concerts, rallies, volunteerism—will also be held across the U.S. on March 8th. If you’re looking to participate, here are a few ways to locate an activity:
- Check the events page on the official site of International Women’s Day.
- Tune into a live webcast that will feature activists, celebrities (including Reese Witherspoon) and UN officials discuss ways the UN system and its partners can empower women from rural and urban communities. The conversation will take place on March 8, 10:00am-12:30 p.m. ET.
- Join Martin and three female innovators on a Facebook Live conversation hosted by Ernst & Young on March 8 at 12:00 p.m. ET.
- Ask your employer or human services department if your company will be honoring the day.
- Go to your local community’s website or Facebook page to find organizations and charities that may be hosting events, as well as businesses, restaurants, and stores that may be offering special promotions.
- Make an appointment with someone you wish to have an important discussion with (possibly your manager or a mentor) about an idea or goal—a strategy Martin learned from the “renegades” she has worked with over the years. “As simple as that is, scheduling a meeting will force you to follow through,” she explains. “Take advantage of these moments of bravery and not overthink them.”
- Register for a class or purchase a book on a subject that piques your interest. “I’ve heard from individuals who’ve always wanted to learn a certain skill or hobby, to start meditating, or to lose weight,” concludes Martin. “It’s about focusing on why you want to press for progress—and your purpose behind it.”