How International Women’s Day is Celebrated Around the World
International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements and highlights the need for gender equality.
It has been recognised each year since the 1900s on March 8th. It is thought to have started in 1907 when 15000 women march through New York City demanding voting rights, more working rights and equal pay. In 1910, Clara Zetkin, leader of the women’s office of the Social Democratic Party in Germany proposed that every country should celebrate women one day a year. In 1911, it was celebrated in Austria, Switzerland, Germany and Denmark. The day wasn’t acknowledged officially by the United Nations until 1975, who have since selected a yearly theme to concentrate on.
27 countries (mainly former Soviet republics) have adopted International Women’s Day as a national holiday, and it is widely observed in many others. The celebration can vary between countries. In some the occasion is marked by giving presents, in others it’s more centered on protesting women’s rights.
In China, Women’s Day is an official public holiday. Communist China adopted the day in 1949. Women are granted a half-day off work to mark the celebration, although it is uncommon for it to be taken. Many have criticised China for losing the feminist origins of the holiday, and instead, use it as an opportunity for women to dress up in high heels and look glamorous.
Similar to Valentine’s (or Galentines) day, the day is viewed as an opportunity to treat women with gifts. In China, the day is treated less to advance women’s rights and more as a commercial opportunity. China also celebrates Girl’s Day on March 7th, which is dedicated to championing the achievements of Chinese women in school and university.
In Russia, this holiday is not called “Women’s Day” it’s just referred to as “the 8th of March.” It’s treated as a big holiday that celebrates all the women in your life from co-workers to mothers and sisters. It’s treated similarly to Mother’s Day, only it perhaps holds more significant.
It has been a public holiday since 1965, with many offices giving gifts to women and going for team lunch the day before. Women are expected to give gifts to the women in their lives, as well as receive them.
Known as La Festa Della Donna, Women’s Day is celebrated throughout Italy by the gifting of yellow mimosa blossoms, a tradition believed to have started in Rome post World War II. These flowers are given in the same way roses are gifted on Valentine’s Day.
Although it is not a public holiday, it’s common for women to enjoy free entry to museums and the cinema. Many bars, restaurants and clubs will host women’s only nights on March 8th to encourage women to take a night off.
Aside from the International Women’s Day on March 8th, Vietnam also celebrates National Women’s Day on October 20th. It’s the day for everyone to celebrate and cherish the women in their life and remember all the sacrifices women have made.
Many companies will hold awards celebrating the achievements of women and many theatres will put on special shows dedicated to Vietnamese women. Many supermarkets, hairdressers and department stores will even give women a discount on these days.
Berlin is the only state in Germany to recognise Frauentag (Women’s Day) as a public holiday. The eastern districts previously held official festivities and big parades for the day, until the 1990s. Post-1945 West Germany decided to distance itself from Women’s Day to avoid any associations with the rival government in East Berlin. They adopted it more after it was recognised by The United Nations in the 70s.
German women often use this day to protest against inequality, discrimination and pay. You will frequently see women protesting and organising marches on March 8th.
In Poland, International Women’s Day has become a more sombre affair. Dzień Kobiet, as it’s called in Poland, is observed solemnly with respect to victims of the fight for equal rights. In the 1970s flowers became the most popular gift for this holiday, especially corsages made from carnations and tulips.
This holiday was observed in schools to encourage students to learn more about famous female figures in Polish history. Nowadays it’s common to give flowers and chocolates still, but it has turned into a more political holiday. It’s common for marches to be organized on this date demanding equality for women.
Uganda has celebrated Women’s Day since 1984, and announced the day as an official holiday in 1991. Every year a different theme takes precedent, for example in 2015 the country focused on women’s health and in 2018 it highlighted female police officers.
This year the theme focuses on gender equality and identifying new ways of advancing the women’s agenda at all levels. The theme recognizes the importance of providing social protection to women.
In Laos, this day is a public holiday. The women are encouraged to go out and drink beer, whilst the men are left at home to take care of the household chores.
Museums, theatres and other locations often give free entry to women on this international day of celebration. This public holiday has most recently been used by charities and activists to highlight inequalities in education.