"International Women's Day (8 March) is an occasion marked by
women's groups around the world. This date is also commemorated
International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women
as makers of history; it is rooted in the centuries-old
struggle of women to participate in society on an equal
footing with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a
sexual strike against men in order to end war; during the
French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality,
fraternity" marched on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.
The idea of an International Women's Day first arose at the turn
of the century, which in the industrialized world was a period of
expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical
ideologies. Following is a brief chronology of the most important
In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America,
the first National Woman's Day was observed across the United States
on 28 February. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday
of that month through 1913.
The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a
Women's Day, international in character, to honour the movement
for women's rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage
for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by
the conference 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.
As a result of the decision taken at Copenhagen the previous year,
International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March)
in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one
million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right
to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work,
to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.
Less than a week later, on 25 March, the tragic Triangle Fire in
New York City took the lives of more than 140 working girls,
most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event had a
significant impact on labour legislation in the United States,
and the working conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked
during subsequent observances of International Women's Day.
As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I,
Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on
the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or
around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either
to protest the war or to express solidarity with their sisters.
With 2 million Russian soldiers dead in the war, Russian women
again chose the last Sunday in February to strike for "bread
and peace". Political leaders opposed the timing of the strike,
but the women went on anyway. The rest is history: Four days
later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government
granted women the right to vote. That historic Sunday fell
on 23 February on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia,
but on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere.
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 for
coordinated efforts to demand women's rights and participation
in the political and economic process. Increasingly, International
Women's Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for
change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by
ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the
history of women's rights."
We are all mothers,
and we have that fire within us,
of powerful women
whose spirits are so angry
we can laugh beauty into life
and still make you taste
the salty tears of our knowledge-
For we are not tortured
we have seen beyond your lies and disguises,
and we have mastered the language of words,
we have mastered speech
we have also seen ourselves raw
and naked piece by piece until our flesh lies flayed
with blood on our own hands.
What terrible thing can you do us
which we have not done to ourselves?
What can you tell us
which we didn’t deceive ourselves with
a long time ago?
You cannot know how long we cried
until we laughed
over the broken pieces of our dreams.
shattered us into such fragments
we had to unearth ourselves piece by piece,
to recover with our own hands such unexpected relics
even we wondered
how we could hold such treasure.
Yes, we have conceived
to forge our mutilated hopes
beyond your imaginings
to declare the pain of our deliverance:
So do not even ask,
do not ask what it is we are labouring with this time;
Dreamers remember their dreams
when they are disturbed-
And you shall not escape
what we will make
of the broken pieces of our lives.
By Abena Busia
Abena Busia in her poem “Liberation”describes the plight
of women and their power to overcome violence and be free.
at the United Nations and is designated in many countries
as a national holiday. When women on all continents,
often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic,
linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences,
come together to celebrate their Day, they can look back to
a tradition that represents at least nine decades of struggle
for equality, justice, peace and development.