International Women’s Day means different things to different people, but the global focus on equality and celebration is clear.
Throughout ancient and modern history, women have collaborated and lead purposeful action to redress inequality in the hope of a better future for their communities, children and themselves. Whether through bold well-documented action or through humble resistance that never made it into the history books, women have united for equality and achievement forever.
And along the way, one particularly powerful collaboration lead to the formation of a globally united moment for women across countries to come together in hope and action. That moment is “International Women’s Day”.
Started in the early 1900’s, the almighty and tenacious Suffragettes forged purposeful action for equality. It was the Suffragettes who started International Women’s Day, with the first officially named “International Women’s Day” event held in 1911.
And still to this day, International Women’s Day continues to be a powerful platform globally that unifies tenacity and drives action for gender parity, while celebrating the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women.
Values that guide International Women’s Day provide direction for the type of action, behaviour and ethos associated with this critical and globally-supported day.
Ten values that guide International Women’s Day are:
As modern day Suffragettes – female, male and all genders – let us continue the work and spirit of the almighty Suffragettes, fighting the good fight. And let us recognise, honour and celebrate the important and impressive achievements of women globally.
While the concept of justice may differ across cultures, the notion of justice is based on respect and equality amongst people. The Suffragettes toiled unreservedly for justice, dignity and hope. Justice means being afforded the same equal rights and opportunities as men. Today through International Women’s Day, the call for justice across the world still prevails as women seek equal treatment, conditions and opportunities to that of men.
A leading organisation campaigning for Women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) that existed from 1903 – 1917 with membership and policies tightly controlled by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, adopted from 1908 the colour purple to symbolise dignity. Dignity, as a value, refers to the idea that all people have the right to be valued, respected and receive ethical treatment. The word is derived from Latin dignitas meaning worthiness.
Hope is the feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. The Suffragettes campaigned tirelessly for a better world, one where they trusted that women would receive equal rights and opportunities. The Suffragettes symbolised the value of hope with the colour green. The Suffragette colours were used on banners, flags, rosettes and badges.
Equality means ensuring all people have equal opportunities to make the most of their lives and talents, and that no one has poorer life chances due to their background or status – the very core of International Women’s Day. Gender equality refers to women receiving and accessing the same opportunities and benefits as men – but throughout history, women were deemed to have no place in politics. They couldn’t stand as candidates for Parliament and they weren’t allowed to vote as it was assumed husbands would take responsibility for political matters because a woman’s role was seen to be child-rearing and taking care of the home.
Just as Suffragettes rallied together, as did the earlier Suffragists, so too do modern day women (and men) who understand that there is power in unity. Strength in numbers and voice are critical in driving change. International Women’s Day was founded on collaboration, and continues to be a key element of its power to this day. Across the world individuals and groups unite, not only to celebrate the achievements of women, but to continue to call for action supporting greater gender parity.
Tenacity was a key principle of both the Suffragists and the Suffragettes, and their tireless effort in fighting the good fight changed history. “Deeds not words” was the Suffragettes’ motto and they devoted considerable attention and effort to forging the rights of women. Around the world today, as in the past, exists an extensive number of groups and networks all working to improve the social, economic, cultural and political status of women – and International Women’s Day is the major day for rallying action, driving visibility and applauding women who make a difference through their achievements.
International Women’s Day provides a specific and designated moment each year to identify and celebrate the successful achievements of women. Through celebrating success, populations not only become more appreciative of the role women play in contributing to society but awareness and expectation is increased that women will not be marginalised, discriminated against or absent from future successes moving forward.
Equality can only be achieved if the diversity, differences and qualities of women are truly valued. Respect for others is a key value underpinning the ethos and agenda of International Women’s Day. Respect for others and respect for self play an important part in forging gender equality.
Seeking to understand others, caring for and valuing diversity, and appreciating difference are key to forging deep relationships to affect change. It’s through the ability to understand and share the feelings of others that differing situations and perspectives can be grasped. International Women’s Day calls for global understandings about the plight of women – the challenges faced, obstacles endured and changes desired for an inclusive and progressive world.
Throughout history women have been mistreated – and still to this day women suffer harsh and inhumane treatment through to continuing discrimination in the workplace. Focusing attention and effort on the way forward, reconciling discrimination through encouraging awareness and banding together to affect positive change is all part of what International Women’s Day stands for.
Use these values to deeply understand and drive your own International Women’s Day activity as you call for action and/or celebrate women’s achievements. Looking back to look forward, values like these have guided women’s campaigning for action and recognition.
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