I celebrated International Women’s Day for the first time in the spring of 2003 while teaching ESL in a small town in Georgia without really knowing it’s rich history. I had been volunteering at an intentional Christian community called Jubilee Partners (one of its founders actually grew up in Waco) whose main goal was to offer hospitality to refugees. I celebrated with a group of women from Afghanistan, Sudan, Taiwan, Canada, and the U.S; some of us volunteers and some of us refugees. We shared food, danced and the women shared how the day was celebrated in their countries.
It is a day where people come together to celebrate the social, cultural, and political achievements of women. In many countries, the day is commemorated with a women’s march, with women receiving gifts and sometimes even being given the day off from work.
The first International Women’s Day was held in 1909 and has led to many important gains for women’s rights. “The Worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.” Originally taken from a poem written by James Oppenheim, was a rallying cry of women’s movements and International Women’s Day. The quote points out that not only must a person have food to survive, but they also need to have a good quality of life.
International Women’s Day has had a hand in women all over the world:
- Gaining the right to vote
- Gaining better working conditions, pay, and maternity leave
- And has even been a major catalyst in overthrowing Czar Nicholas II during the Russian Revolution
Since then, I have tried to honor the day by celebrating the achievements of women I know by acknowledging their work towards creating a more welcoming society. Each year International Women’s Day organizations pick a theme to focus on. This year the theme is: Breaking the Bias. You can celebrate by continuing to work towards a more equitable, diverse, inclusive world free of stereotypes and discrimination. You can also celebrate by acknowledging the achievements of women in your family and your community.
Happy International Women’s Day!
– DeShauna Hollie