Education International
Education International

International Women’s Day 2011: celebrating 100 years of women’s rights

published 29 March 2011 updated 11 April 2011

On 8 March, men and women around the world marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day with the demand for equal access to education, training, science and technology to build pathways to decent work for women.

The day has its roots in labour strikes from the 1850s when women protested against poor working conditions, demanding shorter hours and better pay, as well as an end to child labour and for voting rights. In 1908, more than 15,000 women marched through New York, USA, to demand their rights be respected. The day officially commemorated in 1911.

The last century has seen a clear attitudinal shift in society and women's views of equality and emancipation. In countries like Bulgaria, China, Russia and Vietnam the day has become a national holiday.

More women are role models

For some, particularly younger women, there is a sense that major battles for women’s rights have been won. More women are in decision-making positions, there is greater equality in legislative rights, and more women are role models in all aspects of life. However, more work remains to be done as women are still paid less than men for doing equal work; are not adequately reflected in business, politics, or global women's education and health debates, all the while they continue to be subjected to extreme violence.

Women’s rights remain a struggle and this day is an opportunity to unite and mobilise unions for this aim. In 2011, EI members organised rallies, fairs and debates around the world to mark the achievement of women workers. Many used the day to acknowledge progress made to advance women’s equality and assess ways to improve quality of life. Women’s participation in unions, education and society has improved since the day was introduced, but the campaigns for equal pay and decent work, dignity and respect still continue.

Among the many events held this year, hundreds of NGOs rallied in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to raise awareness about violence against women and girls; in Kenya, young women celebrated ’Responsibility: the priority choice’; for women’s rights; in Canada, a ’Strong women-strong unions’ conference was organised including workshops on lobbying skills, while in the Ukraine, a photo exhibition presented 100 photos of prominent women from 1911 to the present day.

For more information visit: www.internationalwomensday.com

By Claude Carroué, Education International

This article was published in Worlds of Education, Issue 37, April 2011.