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International Women's Day - Around the World

International Women's Day (IWD), originally is called International Working Women’s Day, is marked on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily Eastern Europe, Russia, and the former Soviet bloc. In many regions, the day lost its political flavour, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother's Day and St Valentine's Day. In other regions, however, the original political and human rights theme designated by the United Nations runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are brought out and examined in a hopeful manner.

The day is an official holiday in Afghanistan, 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, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia.

In some countries, such as Cameroon, Croatia, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria  the day is not a public holiday, but is widely observed nonetheless. On this day it is customary for men to give the women in their lives – mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, colleagues, etc. – flowers and small gifts. In some countries (such as Bulgaria and Romania) it is also observed as an equivalent of Mother's Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

The 1932 Soviet poster dedicated to the 8th of March holiday. The text reads: "8th of March is the day of rebellion of the working women against kitchen slavery" and "Down with the oppression and narrow-mindedness of household work!". Originally in the USSR the holiday had a clear political character, emphasizing the role of the Soviet state in the liberation of women from their second-class-citizen status.

However, with time the meaning of the holiday evolved to an apolitical celebration of women. Most late Soviet 8th of March postcards carried no political meaning.

In Armenia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union celebrations of IWD were abandoned. Instead, April 7 was introduced as state holiday of ‘Beauty and Motherhood’. The new holiday immediately became popular among Armenians, as it commemorates one of the main holidays of the Armenian Church, the Annunciation. However, people still kept celebrating IWD on March 8 as well. Public discussion held on the topic of two ‘Women’s Days’ in Armenia resulted in the recognition of the so called ‘Women’s Month’ which is the period between March 8 and April 7.

In Romania, International Women's Day (IWD) is an official holiday. Here it is observed as an equivalent of Mother's Day. The Romanian IWD celebrations include gift-giving of little children to their mothers and grandmothers.


In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Serbia International Women's Day sees enthusiastic celebrations. Observed as an official holiday, IWD is observed by men giving flowers and small gifts to the women in their lives - mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc. Sometimes, women get gifts from their employers too. In schools, pupils often bring gifts for their teachers on this day.

In Poland, for instance, every IWD includes large feminist demonstrations in major cities.


In Italy, men give yellow mimosas to women on this day. Yellow mimosas and chocolate are also one of the most common March 8 presents in Russia.


In Portugal, the day is celebrated by women as well as the men in their lives. The night of 8 March sees groups of women celebrate the occasion together in "women-only" dinners and parties.

In India, IWD is celebrated with great fervor. Many celebrations are held during this day. Several women’s organizations, Non Government Organizations (NGO), students and social activists actively participate to make the occasion a success. Various seminars, mass rallies, movie and documentary shows are organized and a number of gender sensitive plays are staged to arouse general awareness about the day and lead to the empowerment of common women.

In Pakistan working women in formal and informal sectors celebrate International Women's Day every year to commemorate their ongoing struggle for due rights, despite facing many cultural and religious restrictions. Some women working for change in society use IWM to help the movement for women's rights.


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