Monday 27 February 2023
Celebrating International Women’s Day
by Ketcia Peters
This year on the 8th of March we’ll celebrate International Women’s Day. We have celebrated this day, every year, since I have memory. So I went on a journey of discovery of how it came to be, as I did once before, to know more about it. I found out that sometimes I, as many of you perhaps, know something about it, but not the entire story.
And if there’s just one person out there that wants to know, as I do, more, writing this article will be time well-spent.
On March 8th, in most countries, we celebrate Women’s Day: an international day organised to focus attention on the struggle of the female world in terms of equal rights with men.
There are several stories circulating on how and when Women’s Day was born.
For some time, the origin of International Women’s Day has been attributed to the day when hundreds of workers died in the alleged fire of a – apparently non-existent – Cotton shirt factory in 1908 in New York.
In reality, it is most probable that the true origin of the celebration, with its strong political connotation, is linked with socialism. But the violence of the Second World War contributed to the spread of macabre storytelling.
Several historians maintain that the episode of the shirt factory fire was nothing more than an imaginative re-enactment of a real fire that also broke out in New York on March 25, 1911, and not on March 8, 1908.
It was the most serious accident industrialist in the history of the Big Apple which caused the death of 146 people, including 123 women.
The tragedy had rather important socio-political implications: after that fire, new laws on safety in the workplace were, in fact, passed.
Another historical event associated with March 8 is the February Revolution in Russia in 1917. On that occasion, women took to the streets with men to protest against the monarchist Romanov dynasty.
However, the most accredited origin is related to the American socialist party which in 1908 organised the first “Woman’s Day”.
The celebration was meant to commemorate women’s fight for equal rights with men.
They celebrated the first International Day in the USA on February 23, 1909.
The following year, during the International Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, it was instead proposed to choose a common day to dedicate to the holiday, but the date was not decided and each country continued to celebrate it on different days.
It was only in 1975, coinciding with International Women’s Year, that the United Nations celebrated March 8 as International Women’s Day for the first time in history.
On December 16, 1977, the United Nations General Assembly proposed to each country, with resolution 32/142, to declare one day a year “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace”.
Many nations chose as the official date March 8, which was already being celebrated in many countries,.
If the date of March 8 as International Women’s Day is shared in various countries around the world, each state has its own tradition regarding the way to celebrate it. And no matter how it is celebrated, one thing is certain: we still have a lot of doing before this day becomes something other than just another commemorative day.
There’s no lack of information out there on how many problems we women face every single day. There’s no doubt that equality is not achieved and we shouldn’t hide behind a festive day.
A day when we should acknowledge the profound and serious problem we still face, instead of using this date as a marketing escamotage.
A day in which we should celebrate parity and equality between men and women, instead of asking yet again for even one-tiny-meaningful-single-change.
A day for what many have fought, and too many have died over the decades, but we forgot to mention each and every time.
We celebrate women around the globe during this day, we commemorate a historical falsehood instead of giving true history a more important role, and we march for gender equality, but we universally lack the bare knowledge of how deeply the problem entangles in any aspect of our societies. Often not because we don’t care, but because there are too many aspects to tackle.
When I started this journey of discovery of the history of International Women’s Day I did know I’d find something new to add to my knowledge. Yet, it’s just by writing these lines that I realised how slow and sometimes useless the journey has been. How contaminated, by agendas and interests and lobbyism, has been. How rich of troubles, to this day, the fight for gender equality is.
It’ll pass a long time before the 8th March will be something more than a commemorative day.
The fight started over 100 years ago and it still goes on.
Ketcia Peters is an entrepreneur and community advocate for economic inclusion and development for Black Canadians and the social justice sector. Her firm, Ketcia Peters Group Inc. (KPG) provides bilingual organizational and human development services to the public and private sector. This includes analysis and coaching of HR practices, strategic planning, organizational change, equity and inclusivity, and anti-racism. KPG also provides individual and group coaching. In recent years, KP Group Inc. has shifted to greatly expand its equity, diversity and inclusivity work at the municipal and community level, with a focus on anti-racism and anti-oppression. This work centers on a trauma-informed approach in order to ensure we do not cause further harm to those most marginalized in our communities. Visit her website at: https://ketciapeters.com/