100 Years of Celebrating International Women’s Day

Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8 March.

Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8 March. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day, but throughout the entire month of March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments and women's groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.

Theme for International Women's Day 2011: Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women

International Women's Day (IWD) focuses on celebrating women, and celebrations range from general celebrations 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 into many cultures, primarily in Eastern Europe. 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 to attention and examined in a hopeful manner.


International Women's Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900's, which was a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world. There was great unrest and critical debate was occurring also amongst women.

In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1910, during a second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, it was decided to celebrate International Women’s Day. The first IWD was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March 1911. More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, to be trained, to hold public office, and to end discrimination.

Why is International Women’s Day celebrated on 8 March?

In 1917, in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers in war, Russian women began a strike for "bread and peace." Although the strike was repressed, women were finally granted the right to vote. The date the women's strike commenced was Sunday 23 February on the Julian calendar (then in use in Russia) – and elsewhere was 8 March (on the Gregorian calendar).

How is this IWD celebrated in different countries?

In many countries, especially in Asia, this day is an official holiday. In other countries, especially in Eastern Europe, 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 Eastern European countries, however, this day is considered to be one of the major symbols of the old regime and it is not celebrated – at least not in such a scale like before.

How is it celebrated here in the Netherlands? Like in other parts of Western Europe, the most important day for mothers is Mother’s Day, and many people do not know about International Women’s Day. Even so, there are celebrations that take place here in the Netherlands.

Hopefully the custom of showing love and respect to women will continue to spread across the world.

See more at: International Women's Day 2011