March 8, commemorates the struggle for women’s rights. This day is celebrated in many countries around the world. According to the UN, it is a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labor movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. On March 8, 1917, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women textile workers began, covering the whole city. This was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. March 8 was declared a national holiday in the Soviet Russia in 1917. The day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations. Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
The Charter of the United Nations, signed in 1945, was the first international agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. Since then, the UN has helped create a historic legacy of internationally agreed strategies, standards, programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide. Over the years, the UN and its technical agencies have promoted the participation of women as equal partners with men in achieving sustainable development, peace, security, and full respect for human rights. The empowerment of women continues to be a central feature of the UN’s efforts to address social, economic and political challenges across the globe. In order to end gender inequality, everyone has to be involved. Fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. But it is not. To affect change in the world, men must take part in it. Unfortunately today, there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive the same rights as men. No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality. Men are also imprisoned by gender stereotypes. Both men and women should be free to be strong, to be sensitive. Gender has to be considerate on a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.
March 8 should be a day of questioning for all of us. Women’s rights are human and fundamental rights and it’s time to make this point real and effective throughout the world. In Europe, the Institution of European Union have started the work with the Istanbul Convention (Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence). But there is still a long way to go and much to do before women’s rights become a central concern of every society.