International Women’s Day (IWD), also called the International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women, to a celebration of women’s economic, political, and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the day blended in the culture of many countries, primarily in Europe, including Russia. In some regions, the day has lost its political flavour, and instead become simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. In other regions however, the political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong. This is also a day which some people celebrate by wearing purple ribbons.
Thousands of events occur across the world to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women’s groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day. Some groups select their own International Women’s Day theme, specific to their local context. For example, the European Parliament’s 2013 theme was “Women’s response to the crisis” and their 2012 theme was “Equal pay for work of equal value”. The UN theme, apropos, for International Women’s Day 2014 was: “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”
March 8th is an official holiday in numerous countries across the world, cutting across political convictions, religion and race. In some countries, though the day is not a public holiday, is widely observed. It is customary for men to give the women in their lives – friends, mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, colleagues, etc. – flowers and gifts on this day. In some countries it is also observed as an equivalent of Mother’s Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.
In Armenia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union celebrations of IWD were abandoned. Instead, April 7 was introduced as a state holiday of ‘Beauty and Motherhood’. The new holiday became spontaneously popular among Armenians, as it commemorates one of the main holidays of the Armenian Church, the Annunciation. However, people still kept celebrating IWD on March 8 as well. Public discussion held on the topic of the two ‘Women’s Days’ in Armenia ultimately resulted in recognition of the period between March 8 and April 7 as the so-called ‘Women’s Month.’
In Italy, men present women with bouquets of yellow mimosas to celebrate the day. It was Teresa Mattei who chose the mimosa as the symbol of IWD in Italy because she felt that the French symbols of the day, violets and lily-of-the-valley, were too scarce and expensive to be used effectively in Italy. Yellow mimosas and chocolate are also one of the most common March 8presents in Russia and Albania.
In many countries, such as in Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Colombia, Estonia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women also sometimes get gifts from their employers, and schoolchildren often bring gifts for their teachers.
In countries like Portugal groups of women usually celebrate on the night of March 8 in “women-only” dinners and parties. In Pakistan, working women in formal and informal sectors celebrate International Women’s Day every year to commemorate their ongoing struggle for due rights, despite facing many cultural and religious restrictions. Some women working for change in society use IWM to help the movement for women’s rights. In Poland, for instance, every IWD includes large feminist demonstrations in major cities.
In 1975, which was designated as International Women’s Year, the United Nations gave official sanction to, and began sponsoring, International Women’s Day. The 2005 Congress (conference) of the British Trades Union Congress overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for IWD to be designated a public holiday in the United Kingdom. Since 2005, IWD has been celebrated in Montevideo, either on the principal street, 18 de Julio, or alternatively through one of its neighbourhoods. The event has attracted much publicity due to a group of female drummers, La Melaza, who have performed each year. Today, many events are held by women’s groups around the world. Many governments and organizations around the world support IWD.
In Taiwan, International Women’s Day is marked by the annual release of a government survey on women’s waist sizes, accompanied by warnings that weight gain can pose a hazard to women’s health.
In India too, IWD is celebrated mutivariously, there are seminars and symposia, functions and performances, that take place on March 8th. Rural India celebrates women’s day as well, in the form of large panchayat- samiti level “Mahila Melas” organised and held by Non-Governmental Organisations and Women’s organisations in the region.