Growing up in the Soviet Union where we celebrate this day with parades, gifts, and flowers, I am often baffled why my adopted homeland in the US does not celebrate or even acknowledge this storied day. It’s ironic because the history of the struggle and triumph that this day represents in the US started in 1908 with marches in New York City over voting rights and better pay for women. Though women in the US now have the right to vote, the issue of unequal pay and other disparities seem strangely not addressed in US culture.
On a global scale, women face many weighty challenges but are also recognized as the key to pulling themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty. According to UKaid, women do 66% of the world’s work but only earn 10% of the world’s income. Even with this discrepancy, when a woman generates her own income, she invests 90% of it in her family and community.
This to me highlights the importance of wildly celebrating International Women’s Day: it is about women but it’s also about the communities that they support and strengthen. These communities need to reciprocate by supporting their daughters, sisters, and mothers. As the world grows smaller through globalization and international media, we are constantly aware of the gender based, structural, cultural and sexual violence that burdens women and girls all over the world, every day. Men and women of all ages and ideologies need to stand together to address these inequalities. As Gloria Steinem explains: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
Take some time today to read up about International Women’s Day. Better yet, call your mom, aunt, sister, or girlfriend and wish them a Happy International Women’s Day.