Local women will gather at Andrea Trattoria Italiana II in Sea Isle City on March 8 to celebrate their womanhood.

March 8 is International Women's Day, IWD, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. The first International Women's Day occurred March 19 in 1911, and was moved to March 8 in 1913.

In some places around the world, including China, Armenia, Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, IWD is a national holiday. But in the United States, it doesn't get much recognition."When I first came to the states, I was so surprised when the eighth of the month came around and there was absolutely nothing going on," said Belarus native and Ocean City resident Svetlana Fenichel, "especially because it's one of my favorite holidays."

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Fenichel describes Women's Day as a mix between Mother's Day and Valentine's Day. In Belarus, women typically receive flowers and small gifts on this day.

Five years ago, Fenichel brought the celebration to Cape May County by kicking off an inaugural South Jersey Women's Day Celebration Dinner and gathering a few female friends to join her.

"I thought it was a brilliant idea," said Georgina Shanley, a native of Ireland and resident of Ocean City, who attended the inaugural dinner and has attended each year since. She will be there again this year.

"It's about time the U.S. had a national holiday for Women's Day," Shanley said. "The idea is to honor the ordinary women heroes of the world: hard-working women, women who have fought for what they believe in."

The women in the informal group also try to enable and encourage low-income individuals and single, working mothers to attend the annual dinner. To help them do so, they collect donations to cover the cost of their dinners on a first-come, first-served basis.

On the first year the dinner was held, five women attended, including Fenichel and Shanley. Last year, its fourth year, 35 women attended. Fenichel anticipates this year's dinner to bring together even more women.

"Every year, it seems to grow," she said. "We're hoping to continue it in Cape May County and hopefully, in time, grow outside the county to all of South Jersey."

During the dinner, the women also present an award to a local woman who has dedicated much of her life to a greater good, such as "peace, justice, the environment or what-have-you," Shanley said. Last year's recipient was Ruth Fisher, an environmental activist from Dennis Township. This year's winner will be announced at the event.

Ocean City resident Cynthia Hart, who also attends the annual dinners, said it's a "very strengthening experience."

"It transcends all political views and socioeconomic status," Hart said. "It's really a way to just bring women together and blend our support and wisdom."

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If you go

What: South Jersey 5th annual International Women's Day Commemoration Dinner

When: 6 p.m. Friday, Mar. 8

Where: Andrea Trattoria Italiana II, 4216 Park Road on the Bay, Sea Isle City.

The event will include a three-course gourmet dinner Including dessert, tea and coffee and taxes/tip costs $30. BYOB. Consider a scholarship donation for participation of student and modest income. Seating is limited. RSVP before March 6 by emailing mperri828@comcast.net or calling 609-442 2407.

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