The 100th anniversary of the occasion, marked with the slogan ‘Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All’, will see rallies, seminars and assemblies take place around the globe. First proposed in 1910 and launched in 1911, International Women’s Day came about because of a woman named Clara Zetkin (leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for Germany’s Social Democratic Party), who thought every country should mark an annual Women’s Day to press for her gender’s demands.
1975 was designated ‘International Women’s Year’ by the United Nations, which officially sanctioned the day and started sponsoring it. Annual events are now organised by various bodies that work for the welfare of women and campaign for gender equality. Though it originally came into existence because of women’s fight for better pay, voting rights and an end to discrimination, the annual celebration is now largely dedicated to inspiring women worldwide and celebrating their achievements. Search giant Google has taken to celebrating International Women’s Day with a Google Doodle on its homepage, while an all female line-up marks a nod by Sky News to the occasion.
In America, the whole of March is designated ‘Women’s History Month’, while the 8th is an official holiday in 15 countries including China, Ukraine and Vietnam. This year, a coalition of campaign groups including Oxfam, Amnesty International and White Ribbon Alliance are using International Women’s Day to call for more action to reduce deaths among pregnant women in developing nations. Expectant mothers there face the same risk of death as UK women did 100 years ago. Sarah Brown, wife of prime minister Gordon, is patron of the White Ribbon Alliance, which campaigns for safe motherhood.