International Women’s Day: Timeline, History and Today

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International Women's Day

If you happen to be visiting Romania these days, you’ll be surrounded by different stalls selling Mărţişor (if you’re curious to know what that is, you can learn more about it here) and flowers. Lots and lots of flowers.

You would think Romanian men are the most romantic in the world and they like to pamper the women in their lives with flowers as soon as the first sign of Spring appears. I will not comment whether that is true of not (so girls, you’ll have to find out on your own), but what I can say is that March is considered the Month of Women. 
You might think that is because March is the moodiest month of the year, so it resembles to a woman’s tantrums (guess that is kind of true). The real reason behind it though is that in the first weeks of March Romanians have different celebrations which honor women, one of which is actually ‘Women’s Day‘.
A little history
As we all know, women haven’t been considered equal to men for a long time throughout history. It was unconcievable for a woman to do jobs considered fit for a man only… like being a mechanic or running a company. And even today, studies show that women earn less for the same job a fellow man would do.
March, 8th marks a series of events when women decided to stand up for themselves and try to change the order of the world.
    Women can do it

  • March 8, 1857 – protest of women working in the textile industry in New York, which criticized working conditions and low wages. Protesters were attacked by police
  • March 1859 – New York textile industry employees form their first union
  • March 1908 – 15,000 women protest in New York demanding reduction of working hours, better pay and voting rights
  • February 28, 1909 – first celebration of International Women’s Day, after the Socialist Party of America issued a statement to this effect (it was the last Sunday of February, and it continued to be celebrated like this until 2013)
  • 1910 – the first Women International Conference is organized in Copenhagen and decide to establish an International Women’s Day. The idea was presented by Klara Zetkin as an International Women’s Day to be celebrated on the same day (which was not yet decided) in every country on the globe, symbolizing the efforts of all women in the world for a better life (right to education, right to vote, the right to work and to hold public office).
  • March 19, 1911 – over a million women in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland celebrate International Women’s Day
  • February, 1913  – Russia celebrated International Women’s Day for the first time and decided the date of 8th March as the official date, which remained the same until today.
  • March 8, 1913 – Women in several European countries protesting against the increasing tensions in Europe
  • March 1917 – Reacting to the death of over 2 million soldiers during World War I, Russian women started a protest strike called “bread and peace”, which began on 23 February 1917 in the Julian calendar (March 8 in calendar Gregorian). Four days after the start of the strike, the Tsar (Nicholas II of Russia or Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov) was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. Alexandra Kolontai- which at that time was the minister in the first government of the Soviet Union – was the one who persuaded Lenin to proclaim the day of March 8 as offcial Women’s Day
  • May 8, 1965 – International Day of Femi is declared non-working day in the USSR
  • 1975 – International Women’s Day was officially recognized by the United Nations. United Nations proclaimed 1975 the International Year of Women, and the period 1976-1985 became the UN Decade for Women
  • 1982 – a number of women from Iran make a very courageous gesture by removing their burkha (a gesture which was illegal)
  • 8 March 2005 – a worldwide march is organized to popularize a “World Carta for Women”
  • March 8, 2009 – The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that nursing women is ignored in many countries at war
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Nowadays we have females as minister, women astronauts, women teaching in universities, women who work and have a family at the same time. In the media we increasingly see models of strong and achieved ​women. Although the mentality has changed much from the years when the International Women’s Day was just an idea or from its first celebration, there is still discrimination against women. Although for many of us on the 8th of March is a day of gifts and flowers, love and appreciation, there are still women for which this day represents hope and strive for better. Women are still not paid equally, not present to the same extent as men in politics and business, and domestic violence is still a serious problem even in the present.

Women’s day Today

International Women’s Day is celebrated in the following countries: Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Eritrea, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Guinea Bissau, Iceland, India, Italy, Israel, Laos, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Hungary, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia.
In Arab countries, Muslim women are almost always presented as victims of tradition and patriarchal system of society in which they live. Contemporary history of countries such as Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt include nevertheless female figures who led the country towards democracy.

In Algeria, it is a palpable truth, starting with the struggle for liberation from French occupation, women have fought with sword in hand alongside their men. In the 70s there were always women in parliament and government ministers.

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Although it started in the early years of the last century as a social and political celebration, the day of 8th March gradually turned to be a special day when men express their love and affection for women.  Usually men gift flowers to all the women in their lives: mothers, sisters, teachers, co-workers.

Tulips Women's day
Tulips – Symbol of 8th March, Women’s Day, Photo taken by Kıvanç Niş

In Romania and Bulgaria the traditions of the communist era are still preserved and on March 8,  they celebrate Mother’s Day as well. On this day children make gifts to their mothers, grandmothers, and women teachers. When i was little for example, close to mother’s day we would have an arts and crafts class where we would make all kinds of cards and small gifts for our moms. We either painted something or designed using plasticine or even pumkin seeds. Everyone was really excited and tried their best to make the prettiest gifts.

Girl gifting her mom flowers on Women's day
Girl gifting flowers to her mom on Women’s Day

On women’s day you can get all kind of discounts at restaurants, bars, plays (if you are in Bucharest, there’s a nice offer right now at the National Theater), even dancing classes. As it is a day of celebrating women, if you are one you can be surprised by the amount of people who would honor you. It can be just exiting the subway while going to work or when a policeman stops to check your papers or even when you are going to the grocery store.

Policemen giving flowers to woman
Policeman ‘fining’ a lady driver with a flower

If you are wondering what celebrations are organized in your country, you can check the International Women’s Day page, which has posted events for this day around the world.

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Oh! Just a little fun Fact: I guess Romanian men felt kind of neglected, since women had their own special day celebrated, but they didn’t have theirs (although there actually is an International Men’s Day celebrated on 19th November – which they don’t know about). So a Romanian beer brand decided to set the score right and they declared the day of 5th May as Men’s Day. Though it’s not a recognized legal celebration, women across Romania decided to play along and just give them extra attention on that day.

Happy International Women’s Day, Ladies!
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Editor | The World Reporter. An economist, IT specialist and a post graduate student from Romania.