World Social Work Day

by E.L., FCO Placement Student

World Social Work Day

World Social Work day is held on Tuesday, March 21, and the theme for 2023 is Respecting Diversity Through Joint Social Action. World Social work day is a yearly event promoted by The International Federation of Social Workers (I.F.S.W.). World Social Work Day is a celebration that aims to highlight social work's achievements, raise social services' visibility, and defend social justice and human rights. The first National Social Work Month took place in March 1963, starting the tradition of World Social Work day being celebrated on the third Tuesday of March. Social Work day at the United Nations was founded in 1983 in remembrance of Jack Kamaiko, a social work professor at Hunter College. Kamaiko proposed a project to bring social workers in the area into the UN Headquarters in New York.

The role of Social Workers is to work with individuals, families, groups and communities to improve individual and collective well-being. They respond to social issues, including racism, poverty, and unemployment, using approaches and skills that reflect an anti-oppression perspective. Social Workers use anti-oppressive practice, an interdisciplinary approach based on the commitment to social equality and social justice. Anti-oppressive practice breaks the barriers between those who face oppression and those who use their privilege to oppress others. As Baines suggests, “people's participation can be empowering or oppressive, depending on how we engage with, recognize, and respect their multiple social identities” (Baines, 2017). One goal of the anti-oppressive practice is for everyone to participate in all aspects of social life, experience basic freedoms and human rights, and develop an affirming sense of oneself and one's group.

The timeline of events to celebrate world social work day began in 1898 when the first social work class was offered at Columbia University. In 1931, Social work pioneer Jane Addams was among the first women to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. During the 1940s, Frances Perkins was the first woman to be appointed to the cabinet of the U.S. President. In 1998, The social work profession celebrated 100 years of existence. (Kiani)

In 1931, Social Worker “the mother of social work,” Jane Addams, founded the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1919 and founded the settlement house Hull House: where immigrants of diverse communities gathered to learn, eat, debate, and acquire the tools necessary to put down roots in their new country. The home was the first of its kind in the U.S., providing educational programming, health services, libraries, and other resources to serve the underprivileged in the industrial districts of Chicago. The Hull House group professionalized the contribution of women in social work. With their neighbourhood work, they contributed to a more structural political focus. Addams worked with the poor and “engaged in political action to establish new laws to protect them” (Steyaert). Addams played a significant role in encouraging more individuals to examine the social and environmental problems responsible for causing societal problems.

World Social Work day is a time for reflection on the advocacy social workers provide to individuals and communities. It is a day to celebrate and thank fellow social workers for their commitment to creating a platform for societal change. Social workers implement an understanding, build knowledge, and practice new ways of improving activism and opposition. The field of social work is a dynamic and evolving discipline that can impact the ability of social workers to effectively support and advocate for marginalized groups, particularly in addressing intersecting and overlapping forms of oppression. As a social worker in training, educating others about the vital role social workers play in creating safe and supportive environments for marginalized communities is essential. This is especially important because the social work profession has a history of burnout caused by the ongoing need for advocacy work, which can significantly impact social workers. Celebrating World Social Work Day provides an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the valuable contributions of social workers in promoting positive change for marginalized and oppressed populations.


Baines, D., & Smith, K. (2011). Doing anti-oppressive practice: Social justice social work (2nd ed.). Fernwood Pub.

Kiani, T. (2022, March 8). World social work day, March 15, 2022. National Today. Retrieved March 2, 2023, from

Steyaert, J. (n.d.). Settlement Work In North America. History of Social Work. Retrieved March 2, 2023, from

What is Social Work? International Federation of Social Workers. (n.d.). Retrieved March 2, 2023, from

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