March 8: International Women’s Day

March 8th marks International Women’s Day (IWD), which celebrates women’s achievements throughout history and reflects on areas for opportunity for women’s rights. The United Nations officially recognized this day 38 years ago.

The history of this day stems from 1909 when National Woman’s Day was established to honor the women who protested poor working conditions in garment factories in New York. The next year, Women’s Day was expanded to an international front to bring attention to women’s rights and universal suffrage. The United Nations General Assembly first formally recognized March 8 as International Women’s Day in 1977.

This year’s theme – Empowering Women –Empowering Humanity: Picture It! – spotlights the need to provide opportunities and choices to women such as participating in scientific research, receiving an education, earning an income, partaking in politics, and having access to good health care. Along with the theme, IWD will bring attention to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which in 1995, highlighted 12 key areas of concern as we strive for gender equality: poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child.

And while International Women’s Day is only one day, every day is an opportunity to reflect on the importance of women in our societies and another chance to appreciate, respect, and recognize women’s achievements. To find out more information about women around the world, the U.N.’s publication, “The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics,” is a helpful starting point.

Want to use International Women’s Day as a teachable moment in your classroom? Check out our post How to Involve Students in This Year’s International Women’s Day for ideas.