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RISMEDIA, March 8, 2007-Marked on March 8 every year, International Women's Day is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women. Started as a political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries. In some celebrations, the day lost its political flavor, and became simply an occasion for men to express their sympathy and love to the women around them – somewhat similar to Western Mother's Day and St Valentine's Day mixed together. In others, however, the political and human rights theme as 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 idea of having an international women's day was first put forward at the turn of the 20th Century amid rapid world industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions. Women from clothing and textile factories staged one such protest on March 8, 1857 in New York City. The garment workers were protesting what they saw as very poor working conditions and low wages. The protesters were attacked and dispersed by police. These women established their first labor union in the same month two years later.

More protests followed on March 8 in subsequent years, most notably in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1910 the first international women's conference was held in Copenhagen by the Socialist International and an 'International Women's Day' was established, which was submitted by the important German Socialist Clara Zetkin.

The following year, IWD was marked by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. However, soon thereafter, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City killed over 140 garment workers. A lack of safety measures was blamed for the high death toll. Furthermore, on the eve of World War I, women across Europe held peace rallies on March 8, 1913.

In the West, International Women's Day was commemorated during the 1910s and 1920s, but dwindled. It was revived by the rise of feminism in the 1960s.

International Women's Day was declared as a non working day in the USSR "in commemoration of outstanding merits of the Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Motherland during the Great Patriotic War, their heroism and selflessness at the front and in rear, and also marking the big contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples and struggle for the peace"

Women's Day in modern culture

The day remains an official holiday in Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, and is observed by men giving the women in their lives – mothers, wives, girlfriends, colleagues, etc., flowers and small gifts.

In Hungary, Poland and Romania, Women's Day was used as a propaganda tool too, but nevertheless the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women usually get gifts from their employers too.

In India, IWD holds a lot of significance. One can see a lot of celebrations going on on this day. This portrays the power of women in the modern era and how vital their role is in the society.

In 1975, which had been designated as International Women's Year, the United Nations gave official sanction to and began sponsoring International Women's Day.

The 2005 Congress (conference) of the British Trades Union Congress overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for IWD to be designated a public holiday in the United Kingdom.

Today many events are held by women's groups around the world. The global women's organization Aurora hosts a free worldwide register of IWD local events (www.internationalwomensday.com) so that women and the media can locate local activity. Global interest in IWD shows a steady increase.

For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Women%27s_Day.

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