International Women’s Day
Following International Women’s Day earlier this month, here is a brief history of International Women’s Day, how it was celebrated this year and the work being done to continually improve gender equality around the world.
International Women’s Day is held on 8th March each year and is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements throughout history and across nations; whether they are social, economic, cultural or political. It is observed as a focal point in the movement for women’s rights and is also a public holiday in some countries; including Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
International Women’s Day was first held on 19th March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. This date was chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848 – a promise he failed to keep. International Women’s Day has been held on 8th March since 1913.
International Women’s Day 2018
Europe: International Women’s Day 2018 was celebrated in many different ways around the world; with events, marches and feminist strikes bringing light to key issues faced by women today.
In Spain, workers walked in their first ‘feminist strike’, with participating women across the country halting work for 24 hours. In Milan, there were marches in front of hospitals with thousands of students protesting against Italian doctors who refuse to perform abortions, despite it being legal.
In Asia, many International Women’s Day marches took place to highlight the inequalities women are subjected to. In South Korea, there were street marches following the ‘#MeToo’ campaign against sexual assault. Similarly, in India, women marched outside parliament demanding action to eradicate discrimination in the workplace and domestic violence. While in the Philippines, women marched towards the Presidential Palace in Manila, accusing their President of violating women’s rights.
USA: In New York, Wall Street’s ‘Fearless Girl’ statue was draped with a cloak of flowers. The statue was installed to mark International Women’s Day in 2017 and has become a tourist attraction in the city. In California, the golden arches of a McDonald’s were turned upside down to become a ‘W’ in honour of International Women’s Day. These are just a few of the events which took place on International Women’s Day with so many inspirational women sharing their experiences and support for women worldwide.
Each year, a different campaign theme is chosen for International Women’s day; for example, the theme for 2016 was ‘#PledgeforParity’ which invited individuals and organisations to help women and girls achieve their ambitions and challenge gender biases. Last year’s International Women’s Day theme was ‘#BeBoldforChange’, where many influencers committed to bold actions aiming to increase gender parity and work towards a more gender-inclusive world. Alongside the ‘#MeToo’ and ‘#TimesUp’ movements for women’s equality in 2018, this year’s theme is ‘#PressforProgress’ to encourage action over complacency and collectively press forward in achieving gender parity.
The UN has contributed greatly to the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality. It has held four world conferences on Women, with the first in 1975 in Mexico City and the most recent in 1995 in Beijing. Although considerable progress has been made to protect and further women’s rights, according to the UN, there is nowhere in the world can women claim to have the same rights and opportunities as men. The most notable disparities being the gender pay gap and the disproportionate number of female victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The UN Millennium Development Goals have also had a notable impact in gaining attention and resources for gender parity. Millennium Development Goal 3 is dedicated to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women. Equality in primary education between boys and girls has been achieved, among other goals. However, despite this progress, poverty and access to higher education continue to act as major barriers to equality for women in developing nations. UN Women has a further Step It Up campaign of ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’, which has a vision of all women and girls having equal opportunities and rights by 2030.
Don’t forget the men…
Although it is less widely advertised, the equally important International Men’s Day is held annually on 19th November. Like International Women’s Day, it promotes gender equality as well as highlighting positive male role models and focussing on male health.