International Women's Day (8 March)

8 March has been celebrated as International Women's Day since 1975, the year declared as “International Women´s Year” by the UN.

Naughty Bulgarian 8 March postcard

International Women's Day has become a global day of recognition and celebration, but, due to its origins in the socialist movement, it was particularly celebrated and important in the socialist countries.

With the demise of socialism, the prevailing views all around the transition countries are that this holiday has lost the meaning and importance it had during the communist era. In Eastern Europe and Balkans, this holiday is still associated with the old official Communist celebrations.

In Czechia, the many opponents of this holiday consider it misused by the former regime as a propaganda tool. The scenes in which men used this day as an excuse to get drunk, while women received presents that were obligatory in their work places, today are remembered with humor. To a certain extent, 8 March has been replaced by Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, although these holidays have not received the same public attention 8 March used to attract. Czech parliament members discussed the abolishment of 8 March as female deputies regarded the abolishment an anti-feminist move.

In Slovakia, the celebration of 8 March was quite politicized, with centre-right parties demanding that it be officially replaced by Mother's Day. Today they are both considered festive, but neither is a state holiday. According to the media, this year Prime Minister Robert Fico recited poems and cracked jokes about male-female relationships while on a tour of the country. Fico rejected any link between Women's Day and communist times, insisting that it was in fact in remembrance of New York female movements from the beginning of the 20th century.
International Women's Day used to be a very popular holiday in Poland. A red dianthus flower was a symbol of this day, and women received flowers and stockings from their co-workers. Today it's considered to be a more political day, where different feminist groups get a chance to demonstrate and talk about equal rights for men and women. One of the demonstrations is called Manifa. The participants protest against discrimination of women, domestic violence and prohibition against abortion. Women's Day is no longer institutionalized, but it is much appreciated when men give flowers to women on that day, or simply behave nicely by inviting them for a coffee or a piece of cake.

In Bulgaria, 8 March is a celebration loved by many. The country has several holidays in the first days of March and Women's Day comes in handy for continuing the celebration. It is a holiday publicly observed since 1915, but a public holiday only since 1945. The prices double at flower stalls, and restaurants are packed on that evening.

In Yugoslavia, this holiday used to be very popular and important. Big and festive celebrations were held all over the country during the era of Communism. In most of the former Yugoslav countries, this day is still celebrated and flowers and little presents are given to mothers, sisters, female colleagues and teachers in school.

This year it was noted in Slovenian media that Slovenia is the second-to-last among EU member states in the percentage of female members in the Parliament. Some claim that this day is not what it used to be, as today it has moved far away from its roots. As any other holiday, it has its logics in space and time, as in the social environments. Others relate this mostly to the fact that for Slovenians today, 8 March is still highly associated with Communism and therefore neglected.

In other, non-EU former Yugoslav countries the public in general agrees that this holiday has lost its importance. Faced with cruel everyday reality, both women and men state they pay no attention to this day. In Serbia, the custom of giving presents to female school teachers has survived, but in the eyes of the younger generations, the day appears to be exclusively a teacher’s holiday, since they all buy something for professors, but girls do not expect anything from their colleagues and families. As far as legal progress regarding the position of women in society, the law on the equality of genders has passed, as well as the national strategy for the improvement of women´s position.

This year in Sarajevo, feminist organizations organized a big protest walk for the 8 March, including silent protest and performance. It was organized to send messages of peace and gender equality and to draw attention to the real, forgotten value of 8 March. The “special attention” and flowers given to women on this day are assessed to be “8 March´s tricks” followed by continuation of suppression, violence and ignorance to women´s human rights.

In Croatia this year, president Josipović has on this day pronounced that it is a big shame that Croatia does not have a single woman general in its Army. This year, for the first time after 15 years, the government organized a reception for women´s organizations and the organizations of women invalids. Gordana Sobol, the president of the Croatian parliament´s committee for gender equality, has stated that in Croatia, women have to fight again for some basic human rights.


Published June 25, 2010 1:00 PM - Last modified Dec. 8, 2010 10:59 AM