On March 8, 1857, female textile workers in New York City walked away from their jobs. The reason? The women were protesting against inhumane working conditions and low wages.
This event was the start of International Women's Day. Now, on March 8, men and women across the globe are encouraged to remember times like these and take a look at how far women have come over the past century or so.
The day is also an occasion to look at the progression of women through struggles for equality, peace and development. To recognize that social progress requires the active participation and equality of women. To acknowledge the contribution of women to international peace and security.
To realize that there is still a long way to go.
Certainly women have made many leaps and bounds in gaining greater access to education and health care. Women are also better represented in the paid labour force and there is legislation promising equal opportunities and responsibility for human rights. There is also a growing number of females becoming global policy makers and getting more involved in the political process.
This weekend, these and many other achievements should be celebrated, but what should also be taken into account are the many hurdles yet to be overcome and the constant reminders that show the road ahead is still a long one.
Just this week, women in Tokyo, Japan just like those in 1857 called a general women's strike and walked off the job. The women marched to Japan's parliament with a proposed law to ban discrimination against women in politics, employment, education and the media.
Such a parallel in 1998 indeed proves that, especially on an international level, action is needed. These women should be praised for their courage and the rest of the world should consider why they would have to take such drastic measures. Problems still exist.
Closer to home, a woman was shot dead by her former lover on International Women's Day two years ago near Collingwood an act which has called for an inquest examining domestic violence that took place last month in Toronto.
The inquest found despite evidence suggesting two to three Canadian women are killed each week by their current or past lovers, society is still in denial about domestic violence against women.
And the statistics are everywhere: the average woman still receives 30 - 40 per cent less pay than men for equal work. Women continue to be victims of violence and rape and are constantly exploited in the media. The basic conditions of inequality persist not only in foreign countries, but in our own back yard.
For these and many other reasons, International Women's Day is an important time to step back and take a look at what has been and what has yet to be achieved.