International Women’s Day 2024: Then and Now

Written by Chloe Hayler  

As I’m sure many are aware, International Women’s Day (IWD) is right around the corner, falling on the 8th of March every year. The event has become widely celebrated worldwide as a single day or even an entire month, however, this wasn’t always the case and still isn’t in many places now. I shamefully admit that, as a young woman who has adorned her dull magnolia bedroom walls with several feminist quotes, including the momentous ‘Votes for Women’ photo from the Suffragette movement, I had no idea how IWD came to be what it is today. To make myself feel better about this, I assumed other people were in the same boat and so I have done the research for you and compiled it in this article. Thank me later! 

This annual celebration has been around in variation since the early 1900s after Clara Zetkin (Leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) proposed, at a conference of over 100 women from 17 different countries demanding equality, that every year in every country there should be a Women’s Day. After the suggestion was unanimously welcomed, International Women’s Day was honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on March 19th, 1911. It saw over one million men and women get together and campaign for demands, such as the right to work, vote, be trained, uphold public office, and end discrimination. 

Campaigning for peace during World War One saw the spread of Women’s Day celebrations and activism, with Russian women honouring their first IWD on the 23rd of February 1913. Following the 1917 “Bread and Peace” strike conducted by Russian women in opposition to food shortages and a rumoured bread rationing, it was made official that IWD would be annually marked on the 8th of March. This is because February 23rd on the Julian calendar, which was used in Russia at the time, translated to the 8th of March on the now used, Gregorian calendar. The date has remained ever since. The movement continued to grow and finally, in 1975, IWD was recognised by the United Nations, who, in 1996 introduced themes to the celebrations, the first being: “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future”.

Unfortunately, the turn of the century saw a decline in activities taking place for the day. But following a year of collaborative planning between women’s groups and several charitable organisations, the IWD website was launched to reignite support and tackle the circulating stereotype that the rise of women meant the fall of men. After its 100-year centenary in 2011, many celebrities, politicians, companies, and charities began regularly participating in IWD events, with many initiatives occurring throughout the entire month of March which was declared “Women’s History Month” within the United States.

With this turbulent history, the IWD website acknowledges that “The world has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality”. But the momentum shouldn’t stop because the website also identifies that “The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally […] women still are not present in equal numbers in business or politics, and globally women’s education, health and the violence […] is worse than that of men”.

Thus, this year’s theme is “Inspire Inclusion”. It aims to encourage everyone to “understand the value in women’s inclusion” to “forge a better world” and shine a light on the importance of diversity in our society. IWD 2024 hopes to push the boundaries of representation and prioritise equal opportunities for women, particularly in decision-making positions. The theme also provides a gateway for the entertainment industry to continue its work to demonstrate inclusivity on the screen. 

Of course, 2023 saw huge progress, highlighted by the overwhelming support during the release of Barbie. Aside from the incredible explosion of pink, the more serious crux of the film is the advocation of feminism. It’s a film by women that focuses on women which also succeeded in winning the hearts of men worldwide. And of course, one of the highlights was that famous speech from Gloria, played by America Ferrara, which addressed several double standards within the industry and society as a whole. 

A feminist trailblazer I would personally like to honour this month is Annie Nightingale, who sadly passed away this year. She is an inspiration for women in radio as the first female presenter of BBC Radio 1. She then carried on to become its longest-serving host, working tirelessly to champion female talent in both the radio and music industries. And so, it goes without saying that without her pushing the boundaries she did throughout her life, women such as myself wouldn’t have the ability to try out radio or make a career out of it. She truly is an inspiration.

Here on Insanity Radio 103.2FM, we are joining in on the celebrations by playing power anthems and tracks that spotlight the achievements of female artists. With the help of her music team, our wonderful Head of Music Lottie Macro has curated a specialist playlist that will play between 8 am and 10 pm on Friday. Some tracks you can expect to hear are Fight Song by Rachel Platten, Nothing Matters by The Last Dinner Party and Billie Eilish’s What Was I Made For. I am also pleased to announce that Beyoncé’s music has made the cut! Her song BREAK MY SOUL has long been a favourite of mine to blare in my headphones as I strut down supermarket aisles doing my food shop. I’ve also had the privilege of recording a special IWD Top of the Hour promo and ident, coordinated by Head of Sound Tristan Hail, alongside Lottie and Head of Publicity- Issy Litvak, which you will hear as you tune in on Friday.

As I mentioned at the beginning, my bedroom is decorated with many feminist quotes, and so to end this article I’d like to share with you a favourite of mine,

“Feminism is for everyone”.

To see how you can get involved, keep up to date with this year’s events or find out more information on the history of IWD make sure to visit: IWD: History of International Women’s Day

Written by Chloe Hayler, Edited by Eleanor Partington, Photography by Kayla Delaney, Published by Paige Tamasi.