March is Women's History Month and the 8th is International Women's Day. While the day celebrates the achievements of women, in many countries, including Laos, it is also a second Valentine's Day. In particular, the men do the cooking and cleaning for the day as well as giving gifts.
I'm going to the health club for a little while, then going to a friend's house where we'll have an all-women's party with her relatives. In the past, I've spent Women's Days in the provinces where we work. In Xieng Khouang, we usually would have a picnic in Phoukout district next to the Nam Yen river. Last year, I had an abscessed tooth so missed out - I spent the day traveling to Bangkok.
From the official International Women's Day website, I learned that this is the one hundredth anniversary of Women's Days marches, starting on 8 Mar 1908!
Here are a few things I found out about International Women's Day
1. First celebrated in the US in 1909 in a decree issued by the Socialist Party of America.
2. In 1911, it commemorated the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, where 140 women died when they couldn't exit the building because only one exit was accessible, and the fire escape collapse as the workers fled.
3. 8 March became a day for protests against poor working conditions. In 1908, a march against poor working conditions drew 15,000 women in NYC.
4. During WWI, women staged peace marches in Europe on 8 March.
5. Although the Soviet Union promoted observance of the day, it did not become a holiday until 1965.
6. In many countries, men give women small gifts in appreciation.
7. In other countries, including Lao, women have their own parties during the day and evenings.
8. In India, where there is a large middle-class of working women, 8 March is particularly significant.
9. In 1975, with the UN Year of the Woman, the holiday became officially recognized by the UN.
10. In 2005, the UK Trades Union Congress supported 8 March becoming an official holiday (don't know if this has happened)
International Women's Day Entry on Wikipedia