Friday, February 20, 2015

International Women's Day | Around the World

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th every year and has been since it was first observed in 1909. In the lead up to IWD this year, we are going to explore its history and the traditions that differ all around the world, as well as the argument that we still need this day marked in our calendars. 

Around The World

The day is an official holiday in: Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. 

In some countries such as Cameroon, Croatia, Romania, Montenegro, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria and Chile, the day is not a public holiday but is widely observed. On this day, it is custom for men to give the women in their lives, flowers and small gifts, like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, as children give presents to their Mothers and Grandmothers.


In Russia, International Women’s Day is celebrated at home with families having a special meal and men buying gifts for their female relatives, friends or colleagues. In some enlightened households men offer to undertake all household duties for the day. IWD is a public holiday for women, but older people tend not to partake. In 2010 it was revealed that 14% of the population didn't celebrate this public holiday at all.


Women make up around 46% of the Chinese workforce, so in China IWD is a holiday for women only. Many are given half a day off work and receive gifts from their employers, such as cinema tickets!


The ‘Join me on the Bridge’ campaign began on IWD in 2010, when women from Rwanda and the Congo met on a bridge. The idea was to symbolically join their countries at the scene of the mass exodus from the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Each group of women carried half a banner, which when they met, read ‘women are building bridges of peace’. Since then, the movement has inspired women in many countries to meet on bridges on IWD.


In Romania, the day is the direct equivalent of Mother’s Day, with children giving gifts to their mothers, grandmothers and school teachers. Female friends celebrate by holding women-only dinners and parties.


The number of women and girls in Cambodian prisons has soared over the past five years and the system is dangerously overcrowded. The female inmates often suffer as a result, with no special dispensation made for pregnant women or mothers – who are often forced to take their children to prison with them. For the past two years, Cambodian human rights organisation LICADHO has drawn attention to their plight, by delivering food and essential supplied to female prisoners on IWD and holding special events for inmates, such as traditional dancing and games.


IWD can also be a time for men to stand up and speak out against violence towards women. In 2002, there were over 500 recorded acid attacks on women in Bangladesh. The Acid Survivors Foundation organised a men-only demonstration on IWD against this shocking practice. A staggering 5,000 men attended and support has grown ever since – with male film stars and cricket players publicly declaring their support. The IWD protest has become a regular event, and in 2012, there were fewer than 100 acid attacks on women in Bangladesh.


In Italy, women receive flowers – yellow mimosas are traditional (also the flower of choice in Albania). These are intended as a symbol of respect and an expression of solidarity with oppressed women all over the world.


Uganda celebrates IWD through sporting endeavours. The National Lady Rugby Team gives demonstrations at a day long-festival. While the Run for Safe Motherhood marathon raises funds for hospital maternity wards.


The arts are on the agenda in Fiji. The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement is launching a yearlong theatre programme for girls, aimed at encouraging them to speak up. The organisation hopes that by teaching young women to express their opinions at an early age, they will go on to become confident and articulate advocates for women’s rights in adulthood.


India in 2014 held, International Women’s Week. The extended celebrations include music, performance art and a contest to crown India’s top female blogger. But there’s also a serious message, with free health checks for women, free gynaecological advice, and the ‘Foot March’ – a peaceful protest walk which culminates in the gifting of sewing machines to widows and poor young women in need, to help them stand on their own two feet.


Girl Rising was a ground-breaking film by Richard Robbins. It tells the stories of nine unknown girls from nine countries trying to get an education; was penned by nine writers and is narrated by nine of the world’s most high-profile women including; Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Frieda Pinto and Alicia Keys. In 2014 there were many special screenings for its launch, and the film’s aims to raise awareness around the power of education girls.

At home?

In Liverpool, there is loads’ happening for International Women’s Day, and around the rest of the country! But how about coming down to 54 St James Street?

Celebrating IWD, our empowering event will highlight the achievements of women and offer some advice on how to succeed as a woman in business.

The theme of this year’s IWD is ‘Make it Happen’, and with this is mind we are delighted to announce that Alissa Koopal of Izzy Melody Ltd will be our guest speaker at the event. Tipped as one of The Telegraphs ‘Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2015’, Alissa is the brains and determination behind the product I.M.Babybangle.

Come and hear all about how she made it happen when she shares her journey with us. Hear how she has managed to secure over 20 national and international stockists for her product, including key retail players such as John Lewis and Mothercare. She will be telling us about her journey from idea and concept, through to manufacture and distribution. All this as well as juggling being a mum and all-round inspiring woman.

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