Why International Women’s Day Still Matters
What is International Women’s Day all about? Is it really still needed? In my IWD info hub I’m going to explain how this important day of commemoration and activism started, why it’s important & why you should care, and how you can do your part to mark this day and directly support vulnerable and under-privileged women and girls.
When Is IWD Observed?
International Women’s Day is observed annually on March 8th. This date was voted in officially by the UN member states in 1977.
What Is IWD For?
It is a global day of celebration, awareness-raising and fundraising. International Women’s Day recognises women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements while maintaining its historic focus on female-specific issues and the fight for equality around the world.
If you think that women around the world are already viewed as equals and have equal rights, freedoms and opportunities in all things, you may wish to check your privilege. Because that isn’t the case at all. There is still so much work to do and progress to be made.
How Did IWD Start?
International Women’s Day didn’t just pop into existence one year, on March 8th. This special day has, ironically, fought to be seen as important and relevant from the start.
- February 28th 1909: The earliest reported Women’s Day observance, called “National Women’s Day”, is held in New York City. It was organised by the Socialist Party of America.
- March 19th 1911: Over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany & Switzerland mark the first International Women’s Day.
- 1913: Russia observe their first International Women’s Day.
- 1914: Germany observed International Women’s Day on March 8th.
- circa 1967: Second-wave feminists take up the mantle of raising awareness and activism for IWD. In Europe the day was sometimes known as “Women’s International Day of Struggle”.
- 1970s-1980s: Women’s groups were joined by leftists and labour organizations in calling for equal pay, equal economic opportunity, equal legal rights, reproductive rights, subsidised child care, and the prevention of violence against women.
- 1975: The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day.
- 1977: The United National General Assembly invited member states to vote and proclaim March 8th an official UN holiday in aid of women’s rights as well as world peace.
Why Do We Need A Day For Women?
Why do we still need an international day for women? If women want equality, surely there is no need for them to have a special day? When’s International Men’s Day, anyway?
If you’re asking the above questions, you’re in the right place. There absolutely is still a need for International Women’s Day and the awareness and direct support it contributes to the ongoing struggles and needs of women around the world. And yes, there is also an International Men’s Day which we’ll get to in the next section – ask yourself why maybe you’re only concerned about its existence upon hearing of an international day for women.
Do I personally benefit from an International Women’s Day? As a cis white women who is often wrongly assumed to be heterosexual, who is self-employed, no I don’t. I recognise that those things make up some of my privilege. I also live in a country where I am legally allowed to vote, to have as many children as I want, to drive, to work, to do many things which women without British citizenship or who are living in other countries are not legally permitted to do. And these are just a few, obvious examples.
Have you seen what’s happening to women in Iran, for instance? Do you think that’s acceptable? Of course it isn’t. The brave women there, and in other jurisdictions which don’t value women or women’s rights, immediately put my small, irrelevant, day-to-day struggles into perspective.
Where We’re At: (Some Of) The Stats
- 1 in 3 women around the world experience violence
- Less than 15% of landowners around the world are women
- Only 1 in 3 managers or supervisors worldwide is a woman
- Only 25% of parliamentarians worldwide are women
- Women earn just 77c for every $1 men earn
- 380 million women & girls around the world are living in extreme poverty
- 12 million girls under 18 are married each year
- 25 million unsafe abortions take place each year leading to the hospitalization of about 7 million women a year in developing countries, and up to 13.2% of maternal deaths globally
- One woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes
- 130 million girls remain out of school worldwide
…and the list could continue, sadly. Find sources & more information at womankind.org.uk and globalcitizen.org.
Is There An International Men’s Day?
Yes, there is. International Men’s Day is observed on November 19th. You can find out more about this just-as-important day at internationalmensday.com.
What’s This Year’s IWD Focus?
UN Women and the United Nations have decided upon the focus of International Women’s Day 2023, which is DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.
Why this theme? There is a persistent gender gap in digital access, stopping women from achieving their full potential in technology and relevant industries. Women are underrepresented in STEM education and careers, which is a major barrier to their participation in tech design and governance. There is also gender-based violence online to consider and combat, often without full and fair legal backup.
Did you know that:
- Only 22% of AI industry workers globally are women
- 44.2% of AI systems across industries demonstrate gender bias
- 73% of women journalists from 125 countries have suffered online violence in the course of their work, according to a survey
If governments, activists and the private sector do their utmost this International Women’s Day (& all year round) to turn around the above statistics, the digital world would become a safer, more inclusive and equitable space for women.
In addition, the official International Women’s Day website state that the theme for 2023 is #EmbraceEquity, which you can find out more about on this page.
How Can I Mark IWD? How Can I Directly Support Women’s Causes?
Take some time out to properly reflect on why International Women’s Day is important to you. Not necessarily relevant or of direct benefit to you personally, but why it’s observance and causes are important and still necessary.
International Women’s Day also presents a valuable opportunity to demonstrate the importance of fundraising for various women’s rights organisations and projects, as well as actually donating funds to them ourselves. Some suggested groups and charities, which support and protect vulnerable women and girls, include:
- World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)
- Refuge – UK-based charity supporting women & girls during, and protecting them against, domestic violence
- Women’s Aid – Organisation based in England supporting and protecting women & girls against domestic violence
- Catalyst – Workplaces that Work for Women
- Equality Now – An activist charity in the United States, Europe & Africa which fights for women’s equality, anti-discrimination, inclusion, autonomy, and dignity worldwide
- Nomi Network – An organization determined to end human trafficking and enable sustainable employment for women and girls
- Dress For Success – Empowering women around the world to achieve economic independence, helping them thrive in work and life
- Womankind Worldwide – Supporting women’s rights organizations and movements to secure equal rights for women and girls so they can live without fear of violence and have complete bodily, psychological and lifestyle autonomy
Where Can I Find Out More?
Get up to date information, fundraising packs and become a part of this year’s push to amplify women’s voices and achieve true equality for women worldwide, at internationalwomensday.com & unwomen.org.
Find the official Twitter account at @WomensDay and follow the hashtags #EmbraceEquity and #IWD2023.