The International Womens’ Day History: To Remember and Recall

Union of IT & ITES Employees (UNITE)

The International Womens’ Day History: To Remember and Recall

What is Women’s day?

“International women’s day” is now celebrated within our workspaces to celebrate womanhood, whereas, it should acknowledge and recognize women’s labour. 

It is not what has become of it in contemporary India, a time to conduct cooking competitions for women, or a time for discount sale of jewellery or apparel. Not it is the time to thank women for their presence – R. Jawahar

This is the time to remember, the path travelled to achieve our rights, liberation and the journey that lies ahead for our empowerment.

The History: To Remember and Recall

1907, We want to vote:

The first International conference of Socialist women was held on August 17, 1907 at Stuttgart, Germany. It was a time when only propertied men had the right to vote in many countries. While the men demanded voting rights for all, pioneering women demanded that women deserve to vote as well, after all we work too.

In 1910, a Historic resolution to celebrate International women’s day was passed at the second International conference of Socialist women held at Copenhagen, Denmark, presided by Clara Zetkin. Following this, the first international women’s day was celebrated in 1911.

1917, The walk for bread and peace:

Between 1910 and 1916, Womens day was celebrated on any sunday in March. For the first time on March 8 in 1917 (February in the old calendar) the working women from the textile factories of Vyoberg, Petrograd, went on a strike and marched the streets. 125000 people occupied the streets with signs that read,

“give bread to our children”

“We, the wives of the soldiers demand an end to war, long live unity”

The Historical Russian revolution and the overthrow of the Czar was fueled by this significant march. This day is a reminder that we can achieve all that we need, once and if we unite.

1921, Establishing March 8 as permanent  International Women’s day:

The Second International Congress of communist women was held in june, 1921 at Moscow. The memories of the 1917 March paved way to establish March 8 as international women’s day.

 Rosie, The riveter:

World war 2 was similar and more damaging to all countries than world war 1. The governments wanted to use entire populations to fuel the war and propaganda was created to attract women. Most women took up male dominated jobs and were expected to return to traditional work once the men returned from war. Over 6 million women took up jobs created by the war. World war 2 remarked the event of women entering the assembly line work and other male dominated factories. After the end of world war 2, the government propaganda changed to urging women to get back to their traditional roles. The overall percentage of working women fell as the war came to an end. This did not stop the women, but it fuelled them to fight against lower wages and for equality at workplace. Like many movements, the celebration of International women’s day declined after the second world war.


A second wave of feminism began to spread in Europe and America in the 1960s. In 1961, 50000 women around the US protested against the usage of nuclear weapons and the war on vietnam. This was organised by the women’s strike for peace. Several organisations were formed to fight civil and womens rights.

1968: The ideal symbol, a Women:

The Newyork radical women(NYRW) was formed in 1967. It protested the Miss America pageant vehemently. NYRW said that the pageant not only judged women based on impossible beauty standards but also supported the vietnam war by sending the women to entertain the troops. They were against the objectification of women, and called it a cattle auction.

 Establishment of international Women’s Year and UN

The role of the UN in stabilising March 8 as international womens and declaring 1975 as the year of women is an important milestone in the history of International Women’s day. Freda Bronson wrote to the UN secretary general to hold an international women’s year in 1971. In the year 1972 this was supported by Herta Kuusinen, Florica Andrei, Helive Sipila and Shanaz Alami to make it a reality. 

To Commemorate this, the UN celebrated International Women’s Day on march 8, 1975 for the first time. In 1978 the UN passed a resolution inviting all nations to celebrate any day of the year as Women’s day. All countries of the world including India unanimously decided on March 8. India celebrated international women’s day for the first time only in 2010.

 25 years after the Beijing conference:

2020 marks 25 years after the Women’s conference held in 1995 at Beijing.

“What is needed now is a concerted drive to scale up, expand and deepen policies and programs that can move the needle on women’s rights to the benefit of all,” – states Silke Staab, UN women research and data specialist.

While there is some progress, it is undeniable that the progress is slow. The UN report published on March 5, claims that the world is all the more unequal and the future is uncertain. “Momentum has been lost. The world’s women and girls are running to stand still as hard-won victories have either stalled or are being reversed.”

The U.N. agency’s executive director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, cited “powerful pushback” and said at a news conference that women are being squeezed into a quarter of the space that men continue to occupy.“We have 75% of lawmakers and parliamentarians being men,” she said. “We have 73% of managerial positions held by men. We have 70% of climate negotiators also men. And when it comes to peacemakers it’s even less, even though we know when women participate significantly it also guarantees peace that lasts longer.”“Globally, the gender gap in labor force participation has stagnated over the past 20 years,” she said. “Today, less than two-thirds of women are in the labor force, compared to 90% of men.”

In order to fuel and expedite the progress of the movement, The theme of International women’s day 2020 is “I am generation equality : realising women’s rights”. This is aimed to intensify the gender equality movement . A place of equality can arise only when the rights, privileges , participation, involvement, safety and education of all sexes are equal. This can be achieved not by just creating policies and reforms, but only with vigorous implementation. 

The task that lies ahead of us is humongous and perilous. Hence, let us remember the struggles from the past, not just on March 8, but, until we achieve equality. Until then, let us ensure to work consistently and unceasingly.

Divya Ak, Member, UNITE