International Women’s Day 2022: Why do we celebrate IWD? When is it, what is its history and what is this year’s theme?

For 111 years people from all over the world have been marking International Women’s Day (IWD) as a special day to celebrate women and raise awareness of women’s equality - but what sparked this tradition in the first place?

IWD is a universal date dedicated to commemorate the cultural, political and socioeconomic achievements of women everywhere.

It is also the perfect opportunity to highlight the women’s rights movement, raising awareness of issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights and violence and abuse against women.

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The date was first observed more than a century ago and was driven by the universal female suffrage movement that first began in New Zealand.

A protester has the female symbol painted on her face during a march of supporters and feminists for women's rights and over climate emergency at the occasion of the International Women's Day in Warsaw, Poland. (Pic credit: Wojtek Radwanski / AFP via Getty Images)

When is International Women’s Day?

The global day devoted to the achievements and accomplishments of women all over the world is celebrated on March 8 every year.

However, it didn’t start out on a specific date, as the date was formalised following a wartime strike in 1917 when Russian women demanded for ‘bread and peace’. The march began on March 8, so this became the date for IWD.

What is the history of International Women’s Day?

The celebration was borne out of the labour movement in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote.

A year later, the Socialist Party of America announced the first National Women’s Day, and communist activist and passionate advocate for women’s rights, Clara Zetkin, called for the creation of an international day.

She suggested her idea to an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910 and was met with a positive response from the 100 women, from 17 countries, who attended the event.

International Women’s Day was first celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911.

The day was made official in 1974 when the United Nations began commemorating the annual event.

The first theme was implemented in 1996, which was ‘Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future’.

Its 100th anniversary was celebrated in 2011, so this year is its 111st year.

What is the International Women’s Day 2022 theme?

The campaign theme for IWD 2022 is #BreakTheBias.

Bias tends to slow down progress, whether it’s deliberate or absent-minded.

Acknowledging its existence is not enough to get rid of it. Action is needed to balance things out.

What colours symbolise International Women’s Day?

The colours that represent IWD are purple, green and white.

Purple signifies justice and dignity; green represents hope; and white symbolises purity, which can be seen as controversial.

The colours were established from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK in 1908.