In case you didn’t know – it doesn’t get a huge amount of media interest so you may not – it’s International Women’s Day today (Saturday 8th March).
The origins of this day lie in a group of female factory workers in New York who wanted to campaign for better conditions back in 1908. 15,000 ladies decided to go on strike and marched through the city to demand improvements. As a result, the 28th of February of the following year was recognised as the first IWD to remember this event. From then, it has grown into a globally recognised day – some countries such as China, Russia, Cambodia, Cuba, Afghanistan and Vietnam even celebrate it as a national holiday and it is the equivalent to Mother’s Day in other places – here’s hoping the UK will soon follow suit!
It is a great platform to celebrate women’s achievements and highlight certain issues such as female genital mutilation, domestic violence, the pay gap, sexual violence and other pressing concerns affecting women. The UN is a big force in the promotion of the day and their theme this year is ‘Equality for women is progress for all.’ To read more about the history of the day, and the UN’s involvement, visit the UN website.
The IWD website encourages us to ‘think globally and act locally’. Southampton is offering a small selection of activities to recognise the day, such as a Cabaret at the Art House Cafe, a film night at the Third Age centre, a concert at City College, and the University of Southampton is extending it from a single day’s celebration to a whole week with a huge programme of events on offer. More information about everything going on in Southampton can be found on the Southampton City Council website.
Of course there are always dissenting voices about the day, especially those asking when the international men’s day is. However, since women are still heavily oppressed in many countries, many believe it is an important day to raise awareness and keep these issues at the forefront of the global agenda.
Even in the seemingly advanced Western world alarming issues crop up regularly in the news – the anti-abortion legislation in places like Texas and the shocking case of a high school student who was gang-raped at a party in Steubenville, Ohio – both caused huge media interest and concern. Here in the UK, there are still cases that reinforce the case for feminism and the IWD. These include the sustained abuse that many prolific users of Twitter have to endure – Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez, who started a campaign for the Bank of England to feature women on the banknotes; and the continued good work of the Everyday Sexism campaign which highlights the constant barrage of sexism that women still face. Also, the recent and ongoing revelations about public figures such as Jimmy Saville show that victims of abuse, primarily women, are being let down. These cases reinforce the need for the focus of this day and show there is still much work to be done in bringing equality for all genders.
To celebrate our feminist icons, the Sotonettes will be running a profile each month on a different figure. If you have any suggestions, or would like to write one yourself to feature on this blog, please get in touch.
For more information about the day, visit the International Women’s Day website.
Also follow @womensday on Twitter for up to the minute info and use the hashtag #IWD2014.