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History of International Women's Day
International Women's Day
is celebrated in many countries
around the world. It is a day when
women are recognised for their
achievements without regard to
divisions, whether national, eth-
nic, linguistic, cultural, economic
or political. International Wom-
en's Day first emerged from the ac-
tivities of labour movements at the
turn of the twentieth century in
North America and across Europe.
Since those early years, Interna-
tional Women's Day has assumed
a new global dimension for wom-
en in developed and developing
countries alike. The growing in-
ternational women's movement,
which has been strengthened by
four global United Nations wom-
en's conferences, has helped make
the commemoration a rallying
point to build support for wom-
en's rights and participation in
the political and economic arenas.
• 1909 The first National
Woman's Day was observed in
the United States on 28 February.
The Socialist Party of America
designated this day in honour of
the 1908 garment workers' strike
in New York, where women pro-
tested against working conditions.
• 1910 The Socialist Interna-
tional, meeting in Copenhagen,
established a Women's Day, in-
ternational in character, to honour
the movement for women's rights
and to build support for achiev-
ing universal suffrage for women.
The proposal was greeted with
unanimous approval by the con-
ference of over 100 women from
17 countries, which included the
first three women elected to the
Finnish Parliament. No fixed date
was selected for the observance.
• 1911 As a result of the Co-
penhagen initiative, International
Women's Day was marked for the
first time (19 March) in Austria,
Denmark, Germany and Switzer-
land, where more than one million
women and men attended rallies.
In addition to the right to vote and
to hold public office, they de-
manded women's rights to work,
to vocational training and to an
end to discrimination on the job.
• 1913-1914 International
Women's Day also became a mech-
anism for protesting World War I.
As part of the peace movement,
Russian women observed their
first International Women's Day
on the last Sunday in February.
Elsewhere in Europe, on or around
8 March of the following year,
women held rallies either to pro-
test the war or to express solidarity
with other activists.
• 1917 Against the backdrop of
the war, women in Russia again
chose to protest and strike for
'Bread and Peace' on the last Sun-
day in February (which fell on 8
March on the Gregorian calendar).
Four days later, the Czar abdicated
and the provisional Government
granted women the right to vote.
• 1975 During International
Women's Year, the United Nations
began celebrating International
Women's Day on 8 March.
• 1995 The Beijing Declaration
and Platform for Action, a historic
roadmap signed by 189 govern-
ments, focused on 12 critical ar-
eas of concern, and envisioned a
world where each woman and girl
can exercise her choices, such as
participating in politics, getting
an education, having an income,
and living in societies free from
violence and discrimination.
• 2014 The 58th session of the
Commission on the Status of
Women (CSW58) - the annual
gathering of States to address crit-
ical issues related to gender equal-
ity and women's rights - focused
on "Challenges and achievements
in the implementation of the Mil-
lennium Development Goals for
women and girls". UN entities and
accredited NGOs from around the
world took stock of progress and
remaining challenges towards
meeting the eight Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs). The
MDGs have played an important
role in galvanizing attention on
and resources for gender equal-
ity and women's empowerment.
The UN and Gender Equality
The Charter of the United Na-
tions, 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
Over the years, the UN and its
technical agencies have promot-
ed the participation of women
as equal partners with
men in achieving sus-
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 po-
litical challenges across
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