What is the International Women's Day?
International Women's Day (IWD), originally called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year.
In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc. In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother's Day and St Valentine's Day. In other regions, however, the original political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.
The day is an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso,Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam,and Zambia.
In some countries, such as Cameroon, Croatia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria the day is not a public holiday, but is widely observed nonetheless. On this day it is customary for men to give the women in their lives – mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, colleagues, etc. – flowers and small gifts. In some countries (such as Bulgaria and Romania) it is also observed as an equivalent of Mother's Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
In Armenia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union celebrations of IWD were abandoned. Instead, April 7 was introduced as state holiday of ‘Beauty and Motherhood’. The new holiday immediately became popular among Armenians, as it commemorates one of the main holidays of the Armenian Church, the Annunciation. However, people still kept celebrating IWD on March 8 as well. Public discussion held on the topic of two ‘Women’s Days’ in Armenia resulted in the recognition of the so called ‘Women’s Month’ which is the period between March 8 and April 7.
In Italy, to celebrate the day, men give yellow mimosas to women. Yellow mimosas and chocolate are also one of the most common March 8 presents in Russia and Albania.
In many countries, such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women also sometimes get gifts from their employers. Schoolchildren often bring gifts for their teachers, too. In countries like Portugal groups of women usually celebrate on the night of 8 March in "women-only" dinners and parties.
In Pakistan working women in formal and informal sectors celebrate International Women's Day every year to commemorate their ongoing struggle for due rights, despite facing many cultural and religious restrictions. Some women working for change in society use IWM to help the movement for women's rights. In Poland, for instance, every IWD includes large feminist demonstrations in major cities.
In 1975, which was designated as International Women’s Year, the United Nations gave official sanction to, and began sponsoring, International Women's Day.
The 2005 Congress (conference) of the British Trades Union Congress overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for IWD to be designated a public holiday in the United Kingdom.
Since 2005, IWD has been celebrated in Montevideo, either on the principal street, 18 de Julio, or alternatively through one of its neighbourhoods. The event has attracted much publicity due to a group of female drummers, La Melaza, who have performed each year.
Today, many events are held by women's groups around the world. The UK-based marketing company Aurora hosts a free worldwide register of IWD local events so that women and the media can learn about local activity. Many governments and organizations around the world support IWD. 70% of those living in poverty are women, Oxfam GB encourages women to Get Together on International Women's Day and fundraise to support Oxfam projects, which change the lives of women around the world. Thousands of people hold events for Oxfam on International Women's Day, join the celebration by visiting the website and registering your event! - International Women's Day, what better excuse to Get Together!
In some cases International Women's Day has led to questionable practices that discriminated against men. For example Tower Hamlets Council closed off one of its libraries to all males to "celebrate" the occasion, forcing them to travel elsewhere, going as far as even banning male staff from the premises. In Communist Czechoslovakia, huge Soviet-style celebrations were held annually. After the fall of Communism, the holiday, generally considered to be one of the major symbols of the old regime, fell into obscurity. International Women's Day was re-established as an official "important day" by the Parliament of the Czech Republic only recently, on the proposal of the Social Democrats and Communists. This has provoked some controversy as a large part of the public as well as the political right see the holiday as a relic of the nation's Communist past. In 2008, the Christian conservative Czechoslovak People's Party's deputies unsuccessfully proposed the abolition of the holiday. However, some non-government organizations consider the official recognition of International Women's Day as an important reminder of women's role in the society.
International Women's Day sparked violence in Tehran, Iran on March 4, 2007, when police beat hundreds of men and women who were planning a rally. Police arrested dozens of women and some were released after several days of solitary confinement and interrogation. Shadi Sadr Mahbubeh Abbasgholizadeh and several more community activists were released on March 19, 2007, ending a fifteen day hunger strike.
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