Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day?

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By , RADIO.COM

International Women’s Day is celebrated every year as a chance to herald the impact that women make around the world.

But while people in countless countries partake in the day, not as many may know the origins of the international holiday and why it began.

Learn about the history of International Women’s Day, why we celebrate it and this year’s theme below.

Follow full International Women’s Day coverage on RADIO.COM.

When is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8.

When did it first begin?

The day was first celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, according to the BBC.

The lineage of the celebration can be traced back to 1908, when 15,000 female workers marched in New York City as they sought more humane working hours, better pay and the right to vote. The Socialist Party of America would go on to declare the first National Woman's Day in 1909.

clara zetkin
Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) Photo credit Getty Images

IIn 1910, women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin proposed making the event worldwide at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen.

In 1975, the United Nations formally recognized and celebrated the event for the first time.

Why do we celebrate International Women’s Day?

According to the official website, IWD is “a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.” While the day is meant to honor the progress and achievements of women all over the world, it is also a vehicle to raise awareness and encourage accelerated gender parity and fundraise for female-focused charities.

Delegates from all over the world at a meeting to celebrate International Women's Day; (L-R) Marie Campbell (Jamaica), Miss Hazeley (Sierra Leone), Miss Inyang (Nigeria) and Miss Ikpeme (Nigeria), London, March 8th 1947.
Delegates from all over the world at a meeting to celebrate International Women's Day; (L-R) Marie Campbell (Jamaica), Miss Hazeley (Sierra Leone), Miss Inyang (Nigeria) and Miss Ikpeme (Nigeria), London, March 8th 1947. Photo credit Getty Images

What are the official colors of International Women’s Day?

The colors of IWD are purple, green and white, the official site explains. Purple symbolizes justice and dignity, while green represents hope and white represents purity (the latter is considered controversial by some). These three colors originated from the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK in 1908.

People chant slogans as they march down Istanbul's famous Istiklal street during a rally for International Women's Day 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey.
People chant slogans as they march down Istanbul's famous Istiklal street during a rally for International Women's Day 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo credit Getty Images

What is the theme for IWD 2021?

International Women’s Day is ascribed a different theme each year. In 2021, the campaign theme for the celebration is “Choose to Challenge.” As the IWD site explains, “A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change. So let's all #ChooseToChallenge.”

How is it celebrated?

The holiday is celebrated differently in various countries.