International Women’s Day (IWD) was started by the Socialist Party of America on February 28, 1909 and led to many protests over working conditions. It commemorates the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in which 146 garment workers (mostly women) either died from the fire or jumped from the fatal height of the building. In order to keep the workers from taking cigarette breaks, the managers would lock the doors to the stairwells and exits. After this fatal event, legislation was put in place to improve factory safety standards.
Today, many regions celebrate this holiday similarly to celebrating Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. The United Nations promote political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide.
This year, the attention is being focused on the hardship that women endure from displacement due to armed conflict. They are frequently exposed to sexual violence, discrimination and intimidation. It takes tremendous resilience and courage to make sure that their families are taken care of in such hostile situations. Most of them live alone with their children and have to flee their homes to escape further violence. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would like to focus on specific needs, vulnerabilities, and strengths of women who protect and support their families during these times.