International Women’s Day: who, what, when and why?


The idea for an International Women’s Day emerged at the start of the 20th century, out of the early socialist movement.

At the time, it seemed radical. Now, it is far from it. The day is recognised by governments and organisations around the world and is an official holiday in dozens of countries, including Afghanistan, China, Vietnam and Zambia. Since 1975, the UN began celebrating 8 March as International Women’s Day and two years later they adopted a resolution that all member states should observe one day each year for women’s rights.

Although the day looks at positive achievements, it also acts as a reminder of the continued gender inequality around the world. In a year that saw a horrific gang rape in Delhi shock the world, the UN has chosen a theme that simply states: “A promise is a promise: time for action to end violence against women.” 

All the ladies’ single

No awareness day is complete without a charity single and International Women’s Day is no different. “One Woman” is “a musical celebration of women worldwide” put together by the United Nations. Unlike most charity singles which feature chart toppers looking for a bit of positive PR, happily you won’t find Cheryl, Jessie or Emeli on this track; it’s a rather classier affair. Featuring 25 artists from 20 countries, the music was composed by Graham Lyle, the man behind Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, and British/Somali singer-songwriter Fahan Hassan with lyrics by Beth Blatt. It even features sitar player Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the legendary Ravi Shankar. We are told the song is “a rallying cry inspiring listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality”.

And finally...

Men, I know what you’re thinking. Why do women get to have all the fun? When is our special day?

Well, don’t despair; you’ll just have to wait for 19 November for International Men’s Day [insert joke here about every day being International Men’s Day].