What to Know About World Social Work Day

How much do you know about World Social Work Day? Celebrated annually on the third Tuesday of March since 2007, the fairly little-known holiday shines a light on the people and organizations that make up one of the most altruistic fields in existence. There’s also not merely a World Social Work Day, but March has been Social Work Month since March of 1963. Both World Social Work Day and Social Work Month are celebrated in concordance with themes that are selected annually by their founding organizations, which are the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), respectively. The theme of World Social Work Day 2023 on March 21 is “Respecting Diversity Through Joint Social Action.” The theme of this year’s Social Work Month is “Social Work Breaks Barriers.”

The History

The history of commemorating social work is largely indebted to the IFSW and the NASW. Eight years after the Washington, DC-headquartered organization’s founding, the NASW organized and established the first Social Work Month to advocate for the social work profession in the United States. Twenty-one years later in 1984, the White House officially recognized March as “National Professional Social Work Month,” realizing the NASW’s original goal of obtaining broad support for the profession.

World Social Work Day’s history begins in 1983 with the IFSW, the United Nations, and a United Nations representative for the IFSW named Jack A. Kamaiko. Kamaiko and a team of his IFSW colleagues initially proposed “Social Work Day at the United Nations” to strengthen the professional bond between the two organizations. The first Social Work Day at the United Nations was celebrated a year later, and it remains an annual affair that takes place on a day in either March or April. This year’s edition—the thirty-ninth—takes place on April 3.

After the IFSW’s 1997 Social Work Action Day was a success in Europe, the organization voted among each other in 2004 to establish an “International Social Work Day” that would merge the diplomatic mission of Social Work Action Day and the professional and promotional mission of Social Work Day at the United Nations. World Social Work Day officially kicked off three years later in 2007 with the theme “Social Work – Making a World of Difference.”

The Mission

According to the IFSW, the stated purpose of World Social Work Day is to “highlight the achievements of social work, to raise the visibility of social services for the future of societies, and to defend social justice and human rights.” Though the day is primarily focused on celebrating the field of social work, the IFSW makes clear through their words and actions that it’s just as much a day about the people’s social work benefits as it is about social work itself. To celebrate well-done social work, after all, is to celebrate humanity. The commemorative days, months, and events such as their own are designed to emphasize this fact. The IFSW and the broader world of social work professionals ask that on this World Social Work Day, we’ll do our best to appreciate and advance the work being done in humanity’s interest.

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