Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day! When I lived in the US, I had heard only of this holiday maybe 5 years ago. Out of curiosity, I did some research to see if this was new holiday or something that I had never heard about until I started using social media. Wow! How could I have missed such an important day…but let me slow down, and start from the beginning.
International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time on March 18, 1911, a year after the International Women’s Conference adopted a proposal by Clara Zetkin to establish an annual event promoting equal rights for both sexes. At the time, women were marching in around the world, demanding the right to vote and to hold public office. After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Lenin agreed to a proposal of the woman Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai to have International Women’s Day celebrated on March 8 as an official holiday in the Soviet Union. After World War II, other countries made International Women’s Day a popular holiday. International Women’s Day began regaining its importance in the West in the late 1970s, after the UN urged member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace in 1977. This year’s UN theme is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”
In the Balkans, International Women’s Day (8th of March) is less celebrated about its political significance and more a blend of Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. See, in the Balkans, there is no Mother’s Day. I know, I know. This is quite devastating to me (just kidding…really, I am.) Valentine’s Day has recently begun to be recognized by fancy restaurant and posh hotels, but it is nothing like it is in the States. You see flower sellers on almost every street corner as March 8th approaches. Carnations, orchids and roses are popular along with chocolates. Although most people are vaguely aware of its social and political background, they usually see it as just a day to express appreciation for the women in their lives. My kids are bringing chocolate to their teachers, along with special postcards they drew in schools. Almost every man on the street is carrying a bouquet in his hands on his way back home from work. Everywhere you go, women are reminded that the day is dedicated to them.
This year, there is even a #DearMe youtube campaign with advice that you would tell your younger self. I absolutely love this because this is a perfect blend of how people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day – empower girls to be the most that God designed them to be by the women who have the greatest influence on them – their moms, grandmothers and teachers. 🙂