Created on: March 16, 2009 Last Updated: March 08, 2013
The twentieth century saw the world grow in both economic and technological strength and with it grew the confidence of women to demand better working conditions and equal voting rights to men. In 1908, women across New York marched for their rights with the first Women's Day declared across the United States on 28th February 1909. Clara Zetkin, a Socialist of German descent spearheaded the need for all international women to be included in this recognition at the first International Women's Conference in Copenhagen and in 1913, women held rallies to show their solidarity. In 1977, a United Nations resolution, proclaimed March 8th as an International Women's Day, a day when women from all over the world could celebrate together.
It took the suffering of women throughout history to bring about the changes in women's rights enjoyed by most women today. The deaths of the 140 women who worked for the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in Manhattan in 1911 is one incident among others that highlighted the bad working conditions of sweatshops and consequently health and safety laws were introduced to minimise loss of life in cases of emergency at work.
Today International women's day is celebrated all over the globe with a variety of activities and events held in its honour. It is a public holiday in many countries including Russia, China, Vietnam and Bulgaria. There are plays, music events, lectures, documentaries and films relating to women's issues that encourage creativity, personal development and progress. Women can network with other women entrepreneurs to share their business success stories, others organise inspirational and motivational evenings to share their experiences as wives and mothers while many others enjoy beauty events. It is a day when woman of every age should participate and enjoy an event held in their area to feel part of a community of women and develop helpful social links.
While the International Women's Day 2009 theme was based on a message from the Gambian vice president, Dr. Ajaratou Isatou Njie-Saidy to have "Women and men united to end violence against women and girls", other countries have chosen their own unique themes to highlight this year. Canada's theme is to encourage women to participate equally in Canada's future by "Strong Leadership. Strong Women. Strong World: Equality" and in India, Ms. Kiran Walia, Minister for Health and Welfare stressed on both sexes working together to educate and protect children, especially girls.
Even though women's lives have changed from how they were a century ago, there are still many changes needed to improve their lives especially in developing countries. Some societies still believe it is right to treat women as the inferior sex and even in developed countries; women still have a long way to go before they can catch up with equality in wages and in business environments.
The media has put even more pressures on the modern woman to look and behave a certain way and we have young women who suffer health problems to try to look like their size 0 role models. It is a sad fact that there is always a new benchmark for women to match up to before they feel accepted. Maybe they are their own harshest critics and to move forward women have to accept themselves beyond looks and society's limitations and focus on health, education, political and social issues that affect them and above all they need to celebrate how far they have come from their sisters a century ago.
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