International Women’s Day takes place annually on March 8th – this year under a newsworthy motto. Details about that day and why it is more important than ever will be discussed in the following article.
Since 1921, International Women’s Day has been celebrated annually, which hasn’t lost any of its importance until today. Learn more about How International Women’s Day has developed over the years, how it is celebrated internationally and what the theme of 2021 will be.
The history of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is celebrated annually and many people are familiar with it somehow. But when does it take place? What’s the story behind? And since when does International Women’s Day as we know it exist? To understand how everything started, we have to go back more than 100 years: Thanks to female socialists, women workers and feminists, International Women’s Day was initiated in the 1910s. The first time it took place on March 19th in 1911. The primary aim was to establish women’s right to vote, but the initiators had many more requirements such as the legal alignment of women’s rights with male privileges and increased political participation. The first International Women’s Day over 100 years ago was already a success: One million people – equally men and women – responded to the call for a “day in honor of women” and openly supported the fight for women’s rights. Nevertheless, it took ten more years until the International Women’s Day was established as a regularly celebrated day on March 8th, even though Olympe de Gouges had already promoted women’s rights in the 1790s. Also today there are outstanding personalities in the womens rights movement: For example, the German journalist and publicist Alice Schwarzer, the American philosopher Judith Butler and the Ghanaian-British feminist Efua Dorkenoo. But besides these pioneers every single voice is important to draw attention to topics like unequal payment and bad working conditions for women. Today in 26 countries – the majority are previously socialist states – the International Women’s Day is even a public holiday. In Germany, this applies only to the federal state of Berlin. Interesting fact: In some of these countries only women get a day off – and men don’t.
The International Women’s Day in Germany
But let’s stay in Germany for a moment: After the first International Women’s Day (formerly called “Women’s Fight Day”) women did fight and protest with a great deal of commitment for rights men already could benefit from. But during the time of German National Socialism, these achievements were partially undone: A woman in Nazi dictatorship needed to be an “Aryan mother par excellence” and not a protesting activist. That’s the reason why Mother’s Day was introduced in order to establish a totally different image of women. Still, people in Germany continued to celebrate International Women’s Day in silence. In many cases leaflets were distributed illegally and on March 8th, red pieces of laundry were hung out of the window or on the clothesline to dry or for airing. That was the secret symbol which encouraged many protagonists of the women’s movement to hold on even during the very difficult time of National Socialism.
Only after the German reunification in 1989, the day gained in importance again: Article 3 (2) of the German constitution states that men and women are equal. Unfortunately, this sentence is still not implemented 100 percent in real life. To change this, eventually the United Nations attended to the day.
Women in Ghana
In Ghana there has been legal gender equality since 1992. Still, women suffer more often of poverty, illiteracy and violence and they have worse educational prospects. So there is some work to do for Ghanaian feminists: Especially in rural regions the majority of women work in the agricultural sector. For example, an estimated 80% of food is produced by women. To encourage them to work in the non-agricultural sector, it is important to invest in infrastructure and to train them. Furthermore, women are underrepresented in politics. But also in Ghana, activists are bringing about a shift in the people’s mind-set on feminist issues. A fantastic example of female empowerment in Ghana is the cooperative Global Mamas: A network of more than 350 female entrepreneurs, which promotes financial independence and growing self-confidence of Ghanaian women. Also associations like “LandFrauen”, the “German Society for International Cooperation” and the Ghanaian Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs actively make a difference and enable women to realise their full potential. And all of us can contribute to that aim!
Therefore, in our Chocolate School in rural Ghana, young people receive free professional training that offers a real perspective in handmade chocolate production. One of our chocolatières is Ann, who likes to experiment with ginger, nougat and other delicious chocolate fillings. She really believes in herself and her acquired skills to start her own business one day.. This self-confidence is increasing through Ann’s training, because she is able to talk about new creative ideas, which she discusses and tries out together with her team. Every voice is heard!
The International Women’s Day and the United Nations
In 1975, the International Women’s Day gained in importance worldwide due to the UN. After all, this year was called the International Year of Women and for the first time in history, International Women’s Day was organized by the United Nations. For the first time, thematic priorities emerged that placed International Women’s Day under a specific focus topic – for example, sexual harassment of women in the workplace or difficult employment conditions of women in an international context. Eventually, in 1977, the UN general assembly decided to celebrate the International Women’s Day every year. Discussions, networking-events and demonstrations take place all over the world. Important topics are equal payment of men and women, political participation and any type of violence against women. Until 2030, the UN wants to achieve gender equality with the global sustainable development agenda. Countries and several organizations proclaim the motto: UNICEF declared International Women’s Day 2003 with the theme “better education for girls”. In 2019, Chile called out International Women’s Day with the slogan “Against physical and sexualized violence against women”. So which topic is on for this year?
International Women’s Day 2021
In 2021, the Women’s Day on March 8th focuses on the corona pandemic. The motto proclaimed by the UN is: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” and wants to illustrate the pandemic’s negative impact on women worldwide. Not only because women hold the majority of nursing and caring professions worldwide, but also many women experience multiple stress factors due to home office, homeschooling and household chores. For instance, 46,4% of Ghanaian entrepreneurs are female and many of them get additionally involved in social and religious activities. Moreover, during the lockdown in many countries a depressingly high number of women doesn’t have the chance to escape from violent relationships.
International Women’s Day wants to draw attention to these major issues and wants to cause change. For these changes and to break down established structures not only an international (holi)day is needed, but also the participation of society and politics is essential. And everybody can make a difference! Let’s engage in actions and discussions about International Women’s Day, but especially be active beyond that day. Get involved and don’t look away, when you identify injustices. Only when equality of men and women is practiced in real life, International Women’s Day will not be needed anymore.