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Women Unite Their Strength - International Women’s Day

After wrapping up this year’s International Women’s Day, we take a moment to reflect on the day’s roots in Australia & remember its continuing importance to women everywhere.

Each year on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD) gives an opportunity to champion women’s achievements and take a stand against gender inequality.

“The vote for women will unite our strength,” marked the words of the first International Women’s Day over one hundred years ago in 1911, which evolved through the activism of American and European socialist women.

In 1928, the first Australian IWD rally took place in the Sydney Domain, organised by the Militant Women’s Movement, calling for better working conditions, including equal pay, an 8-hour day, unemployment benefits and paid holidays. Three years later, Melbourne joined with their own rally, with both cities using IWD to demand, again, equal pay, alongside addressing other serious issues affecting women.

After decades of operating as a grass-roots socialist movement, IWD was adopted by the United Nations in 1975, which officially declared March 8 as the day for women’s rights and world peace. Across the 1970s, Australia started to see larger crowds at IWD marches, advocating for improvements to women’s work, education, childcare, and reproductive rights.

Photographer C.Moore Hardy, courtesy City of Sydney Archives

Over the last fifty years, IWD has continued to grow in momentum, especially in the mainstream compared to its more politically affiliated formative phase. These days, International Women’s Day oscillates between being a day of protest or celebration, depending on the country and political climate.

The International Women's Development Agency (IWDA), a major advocate for IWD in Australia, says on their website, “IWD is a once-a-year chance to remind governments, businesses and everyone else watching that women aren’t going anywhere, and we’re prepared to take action to achieve our human rights.”

The day inspires action for the same issues women first protested in the 20th century - such as decreasing violence against women and improving workplace and reproductive rights - while educating the public on new issues, like gender inequality caused by climate change and technological innovation.

The UN has named the theme for IWD 2023, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.” The theme encourages the global community to recognise and support women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education, while also exploring the digital gender gap and protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces.

This year, many Australians gathered to observe IWD across a variety of marches and fundraising events. Even though the day has now passed, it’s not too late to celebrate by donating to a feminist cause, reading books by women from all walks of life or mentioning women you admire - whether from the media or your personal life - on social media.


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