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International Women’s Day 2020 In Norwich

International Women’s Day, which is celebrated every year on the 8th of March, is taking place this coming Sunday! You may already know that this holiday is about celebrating the achievements of women around the world, but why do we do this? And how?

In this week’s blog, we’ll tell you about the origins of the upcoming holiday, including how it started and why it is important. We have also put together some ideas for things to do if you feel like getting involved in the Women’s Day celebrations in Norwich this weekend!

The Origins of Women’s Day: A Timeline

So where did this holiday come from, and why? Maybe you have only started hearing about it more recently, but International Women’s Day (IWD) has been around for well over a century! 

28 February, 1909: National Woman’s Day is held in New York City, organised by the Socialist Party of America. Women lobby for fair working conditions and the right to vote (suffrage), which they won’t achieve until August 1920.

New York women demanding fair pay for sewing work in the early 1900s
United States’ women textile workers demanding equal pay. (Via Kheel Center)

1909 – 1910: Many activists are inspired by the idea, and attendees at the Second International (an organisation of socialist and labour parties) agree to adopt the holiday, finding it a good strategy to promote equal rights and suffrage for women. 

19 March, 1911: International Women’s Day is first celebrated in Austria-Hungary, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. In Austra-Hungary alone, more than 300 demonstrations take place to fight gender discrimination and secure women’s rights to study, work, and vote. Over one million women and men attend the rallies across the world. In the USA, it takes place in February. 

February 1913: Russian women observe their first International Women’s Day on the last Saturday of the month. 

8 March 1914: International Women’s Day is held in Germany and England, where women continue to fight for the right to vote. 

Women take to the streets in Petrograd in 1917 to demand fair pay and equality in what is now known as the February Revolution.  (Via History Today)

8 March 1917: In Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), the capital of the Russian Empire, women textile workers demonstrate across the city, marking the beginning of the February Revolution, the first of two revolutions that eventually ended dynastic rule in Russia and brought about the USSR. The Soviets officially adopted the holiday when they came to power, although it was a working day until 1965, when it was declared a national non-working day.

After this series of events, Women’s Day was mainly celebrated by communist countries and movements. This includes commemoration in China starting in 1922, with an official holiday and half-day off for women proclaimed in 1949 after the founding of the People’s Republic. A women’s march was also led by communist leaders in Madrid in 1936, on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. 

Circa 1967: Second-wave feminists adopt the day as one of activism, and over the next decades women’s groups, leftists, and labor organisations continue to cooperate to call for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, reproductive rights, subsidized child care, and the prevention of violence against women. 

Stamps of the German Democratic Republic depicting women of different nations for International Women’s Year
Stamps of the German Democratic Republic depicting women of different nations for International Women’s Year, 1975. (Via Wiki)

1975: The United Nations celebrates International Women’s Year, and names the decade to follow (‘76 to ‘85) the United Nations Decade for Women. As a result of the international focus on women’s rights in this year, a number of women-centred institutions were established, including the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). These continue to lead in promoting women’s human rights worldwide. 

1996: the UN begins adopting an annual theme for International Women’s Day. The first one was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future”. 

21st Century: As corporations begin to sponsor and promote IWD events and feel-good messages, especially in the West, social reforms fade into the background, and many organisations (including the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN, among others) initiate campaigns to raise awareness of the disproportional hardships women continue to face globally.

IWD Around The World

Women’s Day is an official holiday in 27 countries, from Afghanistan to Zambia. It is also widely observed in many countries where it is not a public holiday, such as Cameroon, Romania, and Chile. The context and celebrations of the holiday vary significantly from one country to another. 

In some countries, such as Russia, the day has lost its political context over time and is now simply a day to honour women and feminine beauty. Men often give women little gifts and flowers on this day. In countries like Bulgaria and Romania, the day is also observed as an equivalent of Mother’s Day, where children traditionally give small gifts to their mothers and grandmothers. In Italy, on the other hand, men traditionally give women yellow mimosas on Women’s Day. 

International Women’s Day started as part of socialist and feminist political movements in the West in the early 1900s, but it is now truly international, with many cultures, countries, and people celebrating it in many different ways. 

Whether the origins of the holiday are significant to you, you think the holiday is a nice opportunity to appreciate the women in your life, or this is just like any other weekend to you, why not get out of the house and celebrate? Here are a handful of events taking place in Norwich over the weekend for International Women’s Day. 

Events In Norwich This Weekend

A Feast of True Stories: In Praise Of Great Women at the Bicycle Shop

The Bicycle Shop on St Benedict Street teams up with Norwich Arts Centre and The Sainsbury Laboratory for another edition of A Feast of True Stories. For Women’s Day, they’re arranging a three-course meal, welcome drink, and table service accompanied by talks surrounding the great achievements of ordinary women. Doors open at 18:30 and the event begins at 19:00. You can check out the full menu and book your place here!

Women’s Day at the Buddhist Centre

The Norwich Buddhist Centre at 14 Bank Street is celebrating IWD with a Women’s Dharma Workshop. The aim is to ‘reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination’ by women. The day will include metta meditation, stories of courageous dharma practitioners, and a shared lunch. The event is open to all, and payment is by donation. 

Walking Women (first Tuesday of every month)

This one is not directly related to International Women’s Day, but it’s a monthly activity organised by women, for women. On the first day of every month, women meet for an approximately 1.5 hour walk through the spectacular Holkham Estate. If you love sociable walks, find out more here and join them sometime!

Whether or not you’re celebrating International Women’s Day, we hope our brief history lesson was informative, and we wish you a wonderful weekend! 

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