In Australia we can celebrate as women rise to positions of importance, such as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh (left) and Prime Minister Julia Gillard (centre).
In Australia we can celebrate as women rise to positions of importance, such as Queensland Premier Anna Bligh (left) and Prime Minister Julia Gillard (centre). Claudia Baxter

A day to celebrate all women

OUR motivations may have changed but International Women's Day (IWD) still an important day in the lives of many women.

The history of IWD dates back to 1910 internationally and, in Australia, to 1928.

But socialist women in the United States organised the first national Women's Day in 1908 and helped to inspire the international event that celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future.

It is a day when women are recognised for their achievements, regardless of divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political, and it is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, for looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await women in future generations.

Women have continued to be successful thanks to the commitment of the sisterhood in 1950 to achieve 75% of the male rate of pay or to have the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 passed.

With 2011 celebrating 100 years of women's achievements, there are so many milestones still happening throughout Australia that can be celebrated.

The first International Women's Day events were run in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911 and attended by more than one million people.

One hundred years on, IWD has become a global mainstream phenomenon celebrated across many countries and is an official holiday in about 25 countries including Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia.

While generally the day has moved away from its socialist Suffragette beginnings to become more mainstream in celebrating women's achievements and women's rights, campaigners continue to remind that vigilance, rather than complacency, is essential in striving for women's equality.

While Australia-wide we can celebrate Quentin Bryce AM becoming the first women Governor-General or Anna Bligh MP becoming the first female Premier in Australia to be popularly elected and, most recently, Australia's first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard MP being elected, we also have a lot to celebrate locally based on the drive and determination of many business women.

The 2012 theme for International Women's Day is Empower Women - End Hunger and Poverty.

Oxfam America is inviting people to celebrate inspiring women in their lives by sending a free International Women's Day e-Card or honouring a woman whose efforts make a difference in the fight against hunger and poverty with Oxfam's International Women's Day award.


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