What is International Women's Day?

International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8 - but where did it come from? What does it mean? How should you celebrate?

Female artisans in Kenya.

Let’s first look at the origin of the holiday.

The idea for International Women’s Day was borne out of the second-ever International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910. The following year, it was officially celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The United States and Russia joined the practice soon after, and today almost every country on the planet recognizes it as a national holiday. 

It was originally created as a platform to advocate for women’s rights. Women all over the world began to march to commemorate the holiday and advocate for issues such as labor rights, suffrage, workplace equality and civil rights. Today, the day is celebrated differently across all cultures around the world - with political rallies, business conferences, government activities, networking events, craft markets, theater performances, fashion shows, parades and smaller-scale family events.  

Regardless of the specific issue, International Women’s Day continues to call for gender equality and universal solidarity. It also celebrates cultural, economic, social, political and scientific achievements of women. 

Despite centuries of inequality, women throughout history have overcome societal limitations to govern nations, write philosophy, create art, influence religion, campaign against slavery, pioneer in the sciences, lead companies, become entertainers, advocate for environmentalism and shape global politics, among other accomplishments. 

This a day to celebrate a continuing history of defying limitations, expectations and prejudices - and that’s something we can all celebrate. Whether the women in your life are governing nations or governing households, take a moment to celebrate their success today. 

That’s what we’ll be doing at Kiva - celebrating the success of our female entrepreneurs around the globe. If you want to celebrate them with us, click here to support these powerful women and use your balance for better.

About the author

Channing Fisher.

Channing first witnessed the ability of entrepreneurship to empower people while studying Spanish in Guatemala. Throughout college, she became interested in microfinance while working in business development in the Netherlands and studying the effects of tourism on Caribbean economies. After graduating from Principia College in 2018 with degrees in Political Science and Business, she began work for a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit and later found Kiva. She's passionate about communicating and sharing the work done at Kiva and elsewhere in the international development space.