Marching Towards Equality: The Evolution of International Women’s Day and the Triumph of Oprah Winfrey

Every year on March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day. It is a day when women are recognized for their achievements, small or big, domestic or professional, without regard to divisions, whether ethnic, national, linguistic, cultural, age, political or economic. However, the awareness against gender discrimination and disparity was not created in a day or two. In fact, for women to be fully acknowledged and celebrated, the struggle has been going on for centuries.

Clara Zetkin- The Women Behind the Idea

It all began in 1908 when critical debate occurred amongst women about their oppression and inequality. This encouraged them to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change, leading to 15000 women marching through New York City, demanding shorter working hours and better ways. This great unrest ultimately led to the celebration of the first National Woman’s Day, on February 28, across the United States in accordance with the declaration by the Socialist Party.

In 1910, a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen, led by Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Social Democratic Party in Germany. The idea of an International Women’s Day was tabled at this conference. Zetkin proposed that every year, in every country, there would be a celebration on the same day- a Women’s Day- to press for their demands. One hundred women attended the conference from 17 countries representing various unions, socialist parties, and working women’s clubs, and all unanimously agreed to the decision. Hence, International Women’s Day was approved.

First Celebrations

Following the decision in Copenhagen, International Women’s Day was honored for the first time in many other countries, like Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland, on March 19. Women from all backgrounds attended rallies and campaigned for their rights. Then, in 1913, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on February 23 on the eve of World War I. Following the celebration, International Women’s Day was agreed to be marketed on March 8, translated from the Georgian calendar from February 23. Ever since it has been celebrated on the same date all around the world.

Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia began to protest in 1917. They held a strike for ‘Bread and Peace’ on the last Sunday of February, which was March 8, according to Georgian Calendar, and on the fourth day of the protest, the provincial government granted women the right to vote.

1975- Recognition from the United Nations

Finally, in 1975, during the International Women’s Year, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time by the United Nations. Since then, the UN has become a major sponsor of this event and has begun honoring women from all corners, encouraging more countries to recognize their acts of courage and resolve.

Today, this day is celebrated in various ways around the world. While in some countries, it is a day of protest, a means to promote gender equality, others observe it as a national holiday. Most importantly, the recognition of International Women’s Day worldwide paved the way for women from all backgrounds. Women began entering the workforce and contributing to the global economy, and thus, in 2013, Oprah Winfrey became the first ever Black female billionaire.

Oprah Winfrey- The First Black Female Billionaire

With a net worth of $2.5 billion, Oprah Winfrey is one of the richest black people and the world’s wealthiest black woman. Winfrey has built a sound media and business empire as well as, over the years, she has demonstrated her ability to make sound investment decisions, contributing to her impressive net worth.

Born to a teenage mother in rural Mississippi, Winfrey spent her first six years living with her grandmother in extreme poverty. Her family situation was so dire that she often had to wear dresses made out of potato sacks and was often ridiculed by other children. But Winfrey never gave up. Despite her situation, she showed remarkable resilience and determination. Her childhood experience shaped her perception of the world and inspired her to make a career that would uplift and empower people like her.

At 32, Winfrey achieved her first milestone when her talk show became a cultural phenomenon, drawing millions of viewers with its complex and engaging interviewees. Soon, she reached the millionaire status due to the popularity of her talk show. Then, in 2003, Winfrey became the first Black female billionaire. With the help of her media and Business Empire, Winfrey successfully shattered several glass ceilings, becoming an icon for women worldwide. She became known as the ‘Queen of All Media’.

2023 and Beyond

Since 1908, when National Women’s Day was first put forward, we have witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women’s and society’s thoughts about women’s equality. Today, more women are part of boardrooms, fighting for equal legislative rights. They are part of every significant aspect of life and have made impressive role models. Unfortunately, they are still unpaid and represented unequally to their male counterparts. Hence, there is a long way to go until we can finally say we have achieved true gender equality. Till then, do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal and safe.

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