International Women’s Day has its roots in the labour movement which was defined by vast and quick changes in the industrialized world at the turn of the 20th century. As the world’s population ballooned and the need for additional workforce labour increased, the world view shifted and changed as new ideologies took shape. One of the big results of this was that women entered into the workplace and were faced with the double burden workload of working outside the home to earn money but also have responsibility for unpaid, domestic labour.
In 1911, the first women’s day was commemorated, and it was observed for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, when more than 1 million people attended rallies to fight for women’s right to work, vote, and hold public office while protesting against discriminatory hiring practices. In 1913, Women’s Day was changed to March 8, the date on which it’s been celebrated globally ever since as International Women’s Day.
Today, International Women’s Day is recognized by the UN and is an official holiday in 27 countries. While women have made great strides, a gender equality gap still exists. In 2014, International Women’s Day will focus on the role men play in standing up for women’s rights. “It’s an objective fact, that if you want to solve some of these huge, kind of bigger problems of extreme poverty, you have to include the women,” actor Matt Damon, founder of Water.org, a nonprofit group that provides access to safe water and sanitation in Africa, South Asia and Central America, said about the UN’s “He For She” campaign. “They’re the ones who will get it done.”
Opening the door for a woman because “Ladies first!” doesn’t make up for the fact that on average women earn $0.72 to the $1.00 that our male counterparts earn. A common misconception is that all the battles for women have already been won. Anjali Kwatra, head of news and current affairs at the international development charity ActionAid, says: “International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate women and all their achievements, but also to highlight what still needs to change. There are still so many issues to fight for.”