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Commemorate Instead of Celebrate; The Milestones That Led To The Creation Of International Women's Day

Every 8th of March women all around the world go out to the streets to claim their rights, some have been fighting for years and others have just joined the fight. However, they are all well aware of the long process they still have ahead of them. According to the UN, almost one in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, a non-partner, or both, at least once in their lifetime. In 2022, approximately 48,800 women and girls died at the hands of their partners or other family members globally. 

International Women´s Day origins 

The longstanding process through which women have had to risk their lives in order to protect the upcoming generation of females has been marked by several personalities and historic events. By going back in time we can gather a meaningful number of mostly women, and some men as well, who left a legacy throughout history by going against the grain and breaking with the status quo. 

1. Before any feminist movement, diverse women in different parts of the world laid the foundations for improving the lives of contemporary women. Some of the notable names in history are, Ban Zhao (45-116 A.C.), the first known Chinese female historian, Hipatia (370-415) a pioneer in the history of women in science, Hildegard Von Bingen (1098-1179) known for her writings, as well as for the incredibly important role she had played in the Church (Doctor of the Church) and Christine de Pizan (1364-1430) the first woman to make a living from literature. She defended the figure of women against the misogynistic stance of the scholars. 

2. Charles Fourier, founder of the feminist tradition. He was a French philosopher and utopian socialist who strongly criticized women´s oppression. As per his idealogy, he imagined a world where women could be liberated from their subjection and aspire for the same working conditions: 

... as a general proposition: Social progress and changes of [social] Period occur by virtue of the progress of women toward liberty, and the decline in the social Order occurs by virtue of the decrease in women’s liberty…

His ideas had a strong impact on future socialist figures such as Rosa Luxemburg or Flora Tristan. 

3. The first convention for women's rights in 1848 was the Seneca Falls Convention held in Seneca Falls, New York (United States). 

It was assembled by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, who had witnessed an anti-slavery convention in London, where they had been forbidden to speak simply because they were women. 

When they came back to the USA they were determined to make a change, they congregated women and put forward the Declaration of Sentiments (also known as the Declaration of Seneca Falls), based on the Declaration of Independence of the United States which mainly restricted women´s political rights; no right to vote, to hold public office or to be affiliated to any political party. 

4. In 1857, women workers in a textile factory (during the Industrial Revolution) went out to demonstrate against the precarious working conditions they were suffering; their incomes were less than half of the income of the men. In 1908 women struck -New York shirtwaist strike- for the same reasons they had been advocating for for years, and a year after, the American Socialist Party created the National Women´s Day, which ended up spreading worldwide. Later, on the 19th of March 1911, the first International Women´s Day was celebrated and by 1975 this day was recognized by the United Nations. 

But, why the 8th of March? 

The time when women were starting to be heard, occurred while the First World War was being fought. Women began to meet all around Europe on the 8th of March during the four years that the conflict lasted. In Russia, on the 8th of March 1917 of the Western calendar, women workers demonstrated for “bread and peace”, to which all workers joined (men included). This strike led not only to the destitution of the Zar, but most importantly, to the implementation of women´s suffrage in Russia. 

Why do some countries commemorate instead of celebrate? 

The achievements that women have accomplished over the years do not mean the end of the fight, a fight that is not only theirs but everyone´s. 

This year´s 8th March, as every year, has been lived differently around the world. Some countries allowed themselves to celebrate their success in guaranteeing equity between women and men, however, others argued that they have no reason to celebrate. In these countries where many women still lose their lives at the hands of men, thousands of people mobilized (especially women) and took to the streets to commemorate these lost lives and to remember why the fight still needs to continue. 

In Mexico, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI), in 2021, 70.1% of women who are 15 years old or older, suffered any type of violence, the predominant ones being psychological violence with 51.6 %, and sexual violence with a 49.7

%. In the analysis conducted by the institute, it can be brought to attention that from 2016 to 2021 this violence has been increasing, most notoriously sexual violence. In 2022 girls between 10 and 14 years old were the main victims of rape and it occurred 4.7 times more in girls than in boys in this age period. 

This is why women in Mexico will keep fighting and demanding governmental action. They are determined to go back to the streets this 25th of November and continue raising awareness to hopefully achieve, at some point in time, a safer environment for women and girls. 

Canada is also a country that still has a long way to go, especially for indigenous women who are the main victims of colonial sexism. About four years ago the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was carried out, however, the situation remains quite the same. The missing and murder of indigenous women across Canada is a matter that sometimes seems to be deliberately forgotten due to the lack of action on the part of the government. The final report of the National Inquiry mentioned above, sets 231 “calls for justice” or steps that the Canadian government has to take in order to put an end to thefemicide’. Indigenous women are suffering. Nevertheless, Amnesty International declares that only 2 of those 231 calls for justice have been implemented. 

Promoting intersectional feminism 

Both countries are examples of the action that is still needed today to ensure a better future for women, a situation that guarantees their security and takes off the fears they have to deal with for the simple reason of being women. The inclusivity provided by intersectional feminism is key to putting an end once and for all to any type of sexist practices against all women. Non-white women, as in the case of indigenous women in Canada, are victims of double discrimination, first for being women and then for being indigenous. Intersectional feminism builds up a framework where overlapping forms of discrimination are dealt with and more equal societies can be developed.


Leyre Ojer 


Edited By: Adrita Barua


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