Every year, International Women’s Day is observed on March 8 to celebrate women, their rights and their achievements. IWD began in the 1900s, and according to its website, “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality”.
On the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to salute the spirit of women. “Saluting our indomitable #NariShakti on International Women’s Day! India takes pride in the many accomplishments of the women of our nation. It is our Government’s honour to be getting the opportunity to work towards furthering women empowerment across a wide range of sectors.,”
International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a century now. But while many people think of it as a feminist cause, its roots lie in the labour movement. It was first organised in 1911 by the early 20th century Marxist from Germany Clara Zetkin who was born in 1857 in Germany’s Wiederau.
She trained as a teacher and was also associated with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) — one of the two major political parties in the country today. She was a part of both the labour movement and the women’s movement.
In the 1880s, when anti-socialist laws were enforced, Zetkin went into self-exile in Switzerland and France. During this time, she wrote and distributed proscribed literature, and met leading socialists of the time. She also played a significant role in the formation of the Socialist International
Upon her return to Germany, she became the editor of Die Gleichheit (‘Equality’) — SPD’s newspaper for women — from 1892 to 1917. As part of the Party, Zetkin was also closely associated with the far-left thinker and revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. In 1910 — three years after she became a co-founder of the International Socialist Women’s Congress — Zetkin proposed at a conference that Women’s Day be celebrated in every country on February 28.
The conference comprised 100 women from 17 countries, with unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs and female legislators unanimously approving the suggestion. Women’s Day was observed for the first time in 1911.
Two years later, in 1913, the date was changed to March 8, and it continues to be celebrated as such every year.