In the early 1990s, I walked into my office in newly-independent Ukraine on March 8th to be greeted by a man I barely new giving me flowers. Confused, and not really wanting to deal with deflecting unwanted male attention at work, I was mildly annoyed. But before I even made my way to the coffee maker, half a dozen more male coworkers gave me a flower or chocolate and congratulated me. This was my grand introduction to International Women’s Day, and by the end of that day at work, I was a huge fan. Who doesn’t love flowers and candy?
International Women’s Day originated as a National Women’s Day celebration by the Socialist Party of America in 1909 in New York City. In 1910 at an international conference in Copenhagen, women representing various socialist parties, labor unions and women’s rights groups agreed this should be an international day, and the day was born. In 1975, the United Nations celebrated the day for the first time.
From Flowers to Feminism
While the Soviet Union celebrated the tradition for the duration of its existence, it started to catch on beyond the socialist framework in the last 25 years. Rather than flowers, women are coming together to raise awareness of issues that affect females, and show solidarity and support for each other.
In 1996, the UN adopted an annual theme for the day, and has done an annual theme ever since, focusing on real issues facing women including Human Rights, combating violence against women, empowering women, and fighting poverty and hunger.
International Women’s Day 2020
In 2001, a global hub was launched to consolidate support for this holiday, and bring women and men on the same page in terms of celebrating the holiday. You can find it here. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual. The idea behind it is to challenge everyone to fight gender stereotypes, bias, and inequality. The United Nations’ theme for this year is #GenerationEquality.
Lift Each Other Up
As women, we all share common experiences that tie us together, which is why it is so fantastic that International Women’s Day has moved beyond politics. There are a million different ways you can celebrate this Sunday. So regardless of your politics or place in life right now, join a 5k, give to your favorite women’s charity, volunteer at a shelter, grab your female friends and have a toast over brunch, but whatever you do, be sure to lift each other up and keep that spirit going all year long.
Laura has been writing and editing for more than 25 years, a fact which more than a source of pride, sends her running to the wrinkle cream aisle of CVS. She has worked for CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, The Economist Intelligence Unit, and CBS radio. She has three children, and you will either find her thoroughly enjoying their company or yelling at them to clean up after themselves and turn off the lights.