International Women’s Day: Looking at History to Build the Future
What does women’s day mean to you? Gender equality, freedom, love? Women’s Day has always been a big part of my life. In Bulgaria where I’m from, women receive flowers (usually tulips) from their husbands, fathers or brothers in celebration of simply being - themselves. This is much different to the protests and strikes that have started happening in much of the Americas in the past few years. Because of that, this year I had a special curiosity to find out the origins of this internationally celebrated holiday and what exactly it represents.
I was surprised to find that the origin did not begin in Europe where the holiday has been the most recognized but in the U.S. The year is 1909 in New York and the labour movement is in full force. A strike organized by the Socialist Party is organized in protest of the unfair working conditions of women working in factories.
The Socialist International initiative was taken to a meeting in Copenhagen and in 1911 it established Women’s Day to honor the movement of women’s rights. The holiday was officially recognized in Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. More than 1 million men and women rallied on that day demanding the right to work, train and end discrimination at work.
Between 1913 and 1914, the date became a day for women in the rest of Europe and Russia to protest against World War I, aligning with the peace movement. There was huge progress in Russia during 1917 resulting from a “Bread and Peace” strike that was organized on March 8th and from that the Czar of Russian granted women the right to vote.
Fast forward in time to 1975, the UN recognized and began celebrating Women’s Day on March 8th. Since then the UN has been setting themes for change every year. The theme this year is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50/50 by 2030.
For me this is a fascinating challenge because there are still so many nuances of inequality especially in business and entrepreneurship. But what can we do? We can continue to follow our instincts and build exactly the kind of businesses we want to see in this world. We can join networks and groups to connect with other women and share our stories and struggles so they can learn from them. We can step into our own light and become the role models for generations to come. Finally, we MUST keep doing exactly what we are called to do and never let the outside world quite our inner voice.