March 8 is International Women’s Day, a globally observed day of recognition of the history, contributions and plight of women around the world. The entire month of March is “Women’s History Month” in the United States, as declared by President Barack Obama.
So what does it mean and how can we use these events to educate our children on the important role of women in this world?
Nations across the globe have different ways of celebrating this holiday—here are some traditions from other countries to consider, as well as events and ways you can share the day with your children in a meaningful way right here in the United States.
CELEBRATING AROUND THE WORLD
In many countries International Women’s Day is treated very similarly to how we treat Mother’s Day, with men giving small gifts or flowers to the important women in their lives—grandmothers, mothers, wives, daughters, etc. Children also often give gifts to their mothers.
In Portugal, women have dinner parties together. Italians and Russians give women yellow mimosas, a type of flower, while in Uruguay’s capital city, a famous group of female drummers perform each year. In some countries the holiday takes on a decidedly political tone with demonstrations regarding women’s rights and other serious issues. In Spain, working women often receive a rose from their male co-workers as a token of appreciation.
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HOW TO OBSERVE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
Donate to charity. Oxfam is a non-profit which fights poverty at its roots, in the form of development projects which help women around the world. On International Women’s Day, Oxfam welcomes you to fundraise for them by having a get-together and doing whatever it is you love to do. Sign up and get details on their website. Alternately, you could bring gently used items to a local women’s shelter or organization.
Attend an event. There are plenty of events going on throughout the United States. Find one near you under the Events tab on the official International Women’s Day website. A few events may be child-friendly: online photo collections, theatrical presentations, exhibits, festivals, films, art expos, rallies, poetry readings, chat party for teens, and more.
Watch films. Watch a movie with a strong female protagonist and then talk about it. Some suggestions: The King & I, To Kill a Mockingbird, Mulan, Annie, Persepolis, Madeline, Akeelah and the Bee, Bend it Like Beckham, Labyrinth, and Alice in Wonderland.
Read a book. Pick up a chapter book, fiction or nonfiction, or even a picture book if you have really young children, and read together. There are many role models to be found in literature; For Pre-K and under, check out these great suggestions; for Elementary: Ramona Quimby and Junie B. Jones are great series; for Middle Grade and up: Harry Potter (who doesn’t love Hermione?), Anne of Green Gables, Helen Keller: The Story of my Life, The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank, and Julie of the Wolves.
Write or record. Have your child write a short story with a strong heroine, or better yet, have your child interview a female friend or relative she admires and write down or record what she says as a keepsake.
Take a stand. Which causes affecting women pull at your heart? Get involved and let your child in on the action. It could be as simple as writing a letter to your Congressperson, making a donation to a charity, or buying a fair trade product made by women.
How will you celebrate International Women’s Day with your children?