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8th March - International Women’s day

by FeliciaReading time: 4 min.
8th March - International Women’s day

Welcome March!

Here we are, getting closer to spring and to restart after this long winter. Nonetheless, our series about the most famous celebrations around the world doesn’t stop with Carnival but continues with a particular day, filled with history and political connotations. Dear female - and male - Au Pairs, we are about to celebrate the International Women’s Day on the 8th March!
Even though women must be celebrated all year long, the 8th March is definitely a significant day that can be used as a pretext to continue the endless fight for equal rights. 
Take your time to read this article, make your own thoughts about the delicate topic of women’s rights and don’t miss the chance to teach your Host Kids the inner values of the 8th March: All I'm askin' is for a little respect when you come home would Aretha Franklin sing.

What happened on the 8th March? 

During the 20th century, the world was a real turmoil. Before the two world wars, the society faced huge changes. More and more people were becoming aware of their rights and started fighting for them with strikes, protests and revolutions. Women were not excluded by these changings. The socialist parties were the first ones to take into consideration the women’s right to vote. Various International conferences were held all around the globe in order to discuss this new issue. Let’s have a look at a few key events.
During the Second International Socialist Women’s Conference, in 1910, the participants proposed the institution of a special day dedicated to the celebration of women and the same idea came from the American Socialist Party in the US. The proposal was accepted and from 1911 many countries, such as Austria and Germany, began to celebrate the Women’s Day on the 19th March
Still, it’s not clear why the 8th March became the official day, since until 1921, the Women’s Day was celebrated in various dates between February and March. One of the reasons may lie in the fact that on the 8th March 1917 the women of Petrograd (Russia) started a demonstration against the war and the famine.
There is also a false myth about the 8th March: some documents mention the tragedy which occurred in a textile factory in New York where thousands of women died in 1908 but the dates don’t match.
In any case, the United Nations officially promoted the event in 1975.

When did women begin to vote?

The explanations behind the 8th March leads us to a key point of the history of women’s rights: when did women begin to vote? What we may take for granted now is actually something women were fighting for many years. The right of vote represents the concrete possibility that every citizen has the right to take part in the society, the most efficient and direct means we have to express our point of view and of course the basis of democracy.
The suffrage - the right to vote - has been limited for a long time. The discrimination could have been for religion, citizenship, age, social class and of course gender. Less than a century ago, after years of demonstrations, women finally got the right to vote in the majority of countries. The protagonists of the vote demonstrations in Britain were called Suffragette and the term remained in history.
Even if the protests spread all around Europe during the first half of the 21st century, every country gave women the right to vote in different years. This shows a non-consistent situation when we talk about women’s rights.
Full suffrage was approved in Italy in 1945, in Australia between 1894 and 1902, in Germany and Austria in 1918, in the US in 1920, in China 1947, in most African countries during the 60s, and in Saudi Arabia women could first vote in 2011.

IWD around the world 

The International Women’s Day is recognized all around the world but there is no official celebration that every country shares. Some countries consider it as a public holiday - from Russia to Mongolia, from Belarus to Armenia and Berlin - others don’t!
In Italy, for example, women receive a yellow flower, called the mimosa. It was chosen as a symbol for this day in 1946, as a simple flower that you can find almost everywhere in Italy during March. But be careful, in Germany the mimosa has a negative connotation because it’s a very sensitive flower. To be sensitive as a mimosa is considered to be an offense in Germany.

Feminism nowadays

The term feminism first appeared in the Oxford Dictionary in 1895, stating “the belief and aim that women should have the same rights and opportunities as men; the struggle to achieve this aim”. The 8th March deeply represents the values which are expressed in this word but that’s not all. The 8th March doesn’t stand for the victory of women and the end of all the struggles. This is the reason why there is a huge polemic around the meaning of this day and its connotation. Some claim that we shouldn’t celebrate women just for 1 day but everyday, not with gift or flowers, but with concrete actions.
Respect, equal pay and work conditions, abortion, forced marriages, education and career opportunities, domestic violence... These are all issues with which women struggle even today, in the 21st century.
The famous Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie expressed the need to claim feminism with those very exact words:

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

8th March as an Au Pair

The 8th March will probably be a normal day of work, if your Host Country doesn’t celebrate it as a public holiday. Nonetheless, you may have a special tradition for this day that you want to share with your Host Family. You can take the chance to open a discussion with your Host Family about some cultural differences that you may have noticed in your Host Country with reference to women’s status. The cultural exchange in the Au Pair program doesn’t involve only the foreign language aspect. As an Au Pair you have the opportunity to live inside a foreign culture, learning its habits and characteristics, even when it comes about society norms. Have you noticed some differences with regards to women and feminism? This can be a great topic and you can also discuss it with your Host Kids! 
The International Women’s Day is a special event which deserves to be taken into consideration if not celebrated. We hope you enjoyed the article despite the not easy topic. Share with us your experience about the 8th March and your thoughts about women’ conditions all around the world.
“A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists
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