The legacy of Clara Zetkin
International Woman’s Day, was founded in 1911 by Clara Zetkin, a prolific member of the Socialist Democratic Party in Germany and an advocate for woman’s rights. Zetkin campaigned ferociously throughout her political career to advance the female agenda within the socialist movement. This passion remained steadfast up until her death in 1933.
Perhaps one of the most impressive achievements of her life came during the year she died when, at the age of 76, she made the opening address to the German parliament. She used the opportunity to openly criticise Hitler and the Nazi regime at the peak of his political strength.
Throughout her life Zetkin was exiled for long periods due to the resolute convictions in her beliefs. Her outspoken and brave address in 1933 culminated in her living out her finals days exiled in Russia. In parallel with this staggering political career, Zetkin also had a family.
This week, I attended a Women’s Forum event held by British American Business asking ‘Can women have it all?’ Nicola Horlick, the CEO of Money & Co, spoke candidly about her personal and professional struggles, and questioned the way in which success is defined today. Like Zetkin, she is a true pioneer – not claiming to change the world or painting a picture of perfection, but instead pushing the boundaries for women everywhere and helping to redefine the status quo.
It’s the 104th International Women’s Day this year, and many of the issues being fought by Zetkin and her female counterparts are still as prevalent today as they were in 1911. So much has changed since then.
The life-work balance was and continues to be an incredibly controversial topic amongst men, women, companies and the media. Just a few weeks ago at the Oscars, Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech to voice her opinions on the necessity for the US to address equal rights for women. Vodafone last week announced equal global maternity leave for all of its female employees.
Getting the balance absolutely right may never be achieved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying. We should absolutely feel empowered to question current systems and ways of working, to actively challenge the norm and to rally behind causes that resonate with us. The internet has been hugely instrumental in driving the pace of change, and for celebrating each victory.
The strength and bravery of Clara Zetkin can and should be an inspiration to both men and women not just to advocate greater equality, but rather to raise our heads above the parapet.