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Women's History Month - Our History is Our Strength

Posted on 08 March 2017

International Women's Day

March is Women's History Month; and on 8th March, International Women's Day. These occasions aims to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as well as raising awareness of the ongoing need to accelerate gender parity.

The 2017 theme for Women’s History Month honours women who have successfully challenged the role of women in both business and the paid labor force.

Gerda Lerner

Women's History Month traces its beginnings back to the first International Women's Day in 1911 and the first Women's History Week - an event designed around the week of March 8th - in 1978. However, this history week only took place in the school district of Sonoma, California.

In 1979 a fifteen-day conference about women's history was held at Sarah Lawrence College, chaired by Gerda Lerner (above) - one of the founders of the academic field of women’s history. When its participants learned about the success of the Women's History Week in California, they decided to initiate similar celebrations within their own organisations, communities, and school districts. They also came together to support an effort to secure a National Women's History Week.

President Jimmy Carter signing a proclamation for the first International Women's History Week

The next year, in February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8th as National Women's History Week: “From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indian families who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.

Since then, Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama have issued a series of annual proclamations designating the month of March as Women’s History Month. 

Hidden Figures at the SAG Awards 2017

Feminism is, and always should be, about hearing and promoting other women’s voices. In recent years women have been heard, and celebrated, in ways that they previously had not.

There has been a dramatic increase in film and television shows centred around female dominated casts and stories, and crucially, produced by female crews. From the worldwide hit Orange is the New Black, to the Academy Award nominated film, Hidden Figures, celebrating African-American women.

Social Media

Additionally, the rise of social media in the modern world has given society a creative platform to call out everything from everyday sexism to subtle inequalities in certain industries.

After Theresa May became Prime Minister the sexism was palpable. But through both social media and other media platforms feminists have shone a light on the inequality. From light hearted posts poking fun at the way the media discusses politicians wives by discussing Philip May’s wardrobe to The Pool calling out the British press for focusing on trivial topics (such as May’s styling choices or comparing her to Margaret Thatcher) instead of May’s policies.

Women's March on Washington 2017

We saw even more solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington earlier this year, and the supporting marches that took place around the world.

Millions of people worldwide joined together to let one another know that we are not alone. We are united against misogyny, racism and corruption. We are united against hate. And even if on this basis alone, the Women’s March was an unmitigated triumph. It’s important for us to always stand together, and, whenever possible to make positive changes towards equality.

Do not wait for someone else to come and speak for you. It’s you who can change the world” - Malala Yousafzai.

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