International Women’s Day 2021: Date, history, and why we celebrate it on March 8
International Women’s Day 2021 Date: Celebrated on March 8 every year, this day is symbolic of the historic journey women around the world have taken to better their lives. It comes as a reminder that while a lot has been achieved, the journey is long and a lot more needs to be done.
History and significance
International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a century now. But while many people think of it as a feminist cause, its roots lie in the labour movement. It was first organised in 1911 by the early 20th century Marxist from Germany Clara Zetkin.
Zetkin was born in 1857 in Germany’s Wiederau. She trained as a teacher, and was associated with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — one of the two major political parties in the country today. She was a part of both the labour movement and the women’s movement.
In the 1880s, when anti-socialist laws were enforced by German leader Otto von Bismarck, Zetkin went into a self-imposed exile in Switzerland and France. During this time, she wrote and distributed proscribed literature, and met leading socialists of the time. Zetkin also played a significant role in the formation of the Socialist International.
Upon her return to Germany, she became the editor of Die Gleichheit (‘Equality’) — SPD’s newspaper for women — from 1892 to 1917. In the SPD, Zetkin was closely associated with the far-left thinker and revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. In 1910 — three years after she became a co-founder of the International Socialist Women’s Congress — Zetkin proposed at a conference that Women’s Day be celebrated in every country on February 28.
The conference comprised 100 women from 17 countries, with unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs and female legislators unanimously approving the suggestion. Women’s Day was observed for the first time in 1911.
Two years later, in 1913, the date was changed to March 8, and it continues to be celebrated as such every year.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #ChooseToChallenge. It indicates that a “challenged world is an alert world, and from challenge comes change”.
This year, we can all choose to challenge everything that has been holding us back, and become better allies.