International Women’s Day, as the name implies, is a day to celebrate womanhood, their social, political, cultural, political, economic achievements and their significant contributions to society, while laying importance on gender equality. People across the world come together to commemorate women — not just well-known personalities, but also each woman who plays a pivotal part in the shaping of their lives. The day has come to be increasingly associated with feminism and equal rights for women. It asserts the equal freedoms and rights that women have access to just like men.
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Observed from the 1900s, Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8. While it is not celebrated in association with any one group, the day brings together State governments across the world, many women welfare and empowerment organisations, non-profits and charities with the ulterior motive of celebrating women. IWD was initially celebrated as International Working Women’s Day and the earliest celebration is believed to be held at a Socialist political event in New York City in 1909.
IWD was mostly celebrated in socialist and Communist countries before the United Nations adopted it in 1977. The UN celebrates the day on the basis of different themes. In 2016, the theme was Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality. This year, the theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030. The day has now come to be also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
With the widening context of women and their rights across the world, different themes every year highlighted the atrocities that women are facing. For instance, in 2010, the International Women’s Day the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) brought to the world’s attention, the physical and mental hardships displaced women endure, as a result of armed conflicts and humanitarian crisis.
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In 2011, former US president Barack Obama proclaimed the month of March as Women’s History Month. Hillary Clinton initiated the 100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges, on the eve of IWD this year. Many programmes to prevent rape and help rape survivors and those oppressed in conflict zones were also started later across the world.
But sadly, in parts of the world, in 2011 there were people in Egypt’s Tahrir Square who reportedly came out to harass women who had come to stand up for their rights on the occasion.
In 2012, the UN theme for International Women’s Day 2012 was Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty. In 2013, the UN theme for International Women’s Day was ‘A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women’. In 2014, the UN theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Equality for Women is Progress for All’. In 2015, the UN theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!’