Every March 8th, the world recognizes International Women’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate the accomplishments of women in areas like culture, politics, the economy, and society at large. Why does this matter? Here are ten reasons:
#1. Each year explores a theme
There are many topics related to women’s rights and gender equality, so it’s only fitting that each International Women’s Day (IWD) highlights a specific theme. 2022’s theme was “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” It focused on gender equality in the context of environmental and disaster risk reduction, as well as climate change. These issues affect everyone, but women are in more danger because they make up more of the world’s poorest communities. Focusing each IWD on a specific theme raises awareness of challenges like climate change.
#2. The day has a long history
Today, International Women’s Day is a global event focusing on women’s rights and gender equality, but it originated as part of the labor and voting rights movements. In 1910, Clara Zetkin, a German communist/socialist and women’s rights activist, proposed the idea of an international day at a conference. The 100 women present, who represented 17 countries, all agreed. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany. It wasn’t until 1977 that the United Nations adopted March 8th as a global holiday. Understanding IWD’s origin helps us better hold to the spirit of the day: radical change.
You may also like: International Women’s Health and Human Rights (Online Course) offered by Stanford University
#3. It’s an opportunity to celebrate women’s accomplishments
History bursts with important events that have made the world a better place. Women have always played essential roles in the movements for voting rights, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, labor rights, children’s rights, and much more. They’ve also accomplished great things in every field, including medicine, science, literature, and politics. International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to recognize all these successes.
#4. The day highlights the work that remains to be done
While International Women’s Day celebrates how far women’s rights and gender equality have come, it’s also important to recognize what still needs to be done. According to the United Nations, women make up 70% of the world’s 1.3 billion people in poverty. Of those displaced by climate-related disasters, 80% are women and girls. The pandemic worsened things for women and girls, as well. A study published in The Lancet found that women experienced worse social and economic consequences than men. It will take a concentrated effort to reverse the effects.
#5. It’s an opportunity to raise funds for women’s issues
When International Women’s Day comes along, it’s a great opportunity to donate to respected organizations working for gender equality and women’s rights. There are many to choose from including international organizations like The Center for Reproductive Rights, Amnesty International, Save the Children, and Global Grassroots. Many local organizations and activists plan special campaigns for IWD, so check your local area if you want to donate or promote a fundraising event.
#6. It’s an opportunity for schools and organizations to provide education
While women’s rights and gender equality are always important topics to learn about, international days are opportunities for more focused education and awareness. By marking a specific day, there’s a concentrated influx of info and education that isn’t normally present. Schools can find resources online or host events, workshops, and other collaborations. Any organization can take advantage of IWD to focus on the women’s rights most relevant to their mission. For example, a clothing brand can provide education on the garment industry’s history of exploitation, as well as initiatives to improve the treatment of female workers.
#7. It’s an opportunity to check on corporations that claim to be progressive
Lots of corporations use the language of progress and the promise of gender equality for good branding. Many don’t follow through. International Women’s Day is a great day to check on corporations and see if they’re pursuing gender equality, whether it’s giving money toward causes or improving parity within their own organization. Many corporations make promises on IWD, so take note of any you see and commit to checking in later. Like governments, corporations should be held accountable for their women’s rights records.
#8. The day connects people from around the world
As the name says, International Women’s Day is about women from all around the world. IWD is a day to celebrate activists on a global level, raising awareness of their work and the challenges they face. It’s also a great opportunity to network and connect with people committed to gender equality. Thanks to social media, connection on an international level is much easier than in the past. Connections made because of IWD can lead to long-term collaboration, friendships, and financial support.
#9. It’s an opportunity to reflect on your own life
Our world has a long history of discrimination against women (which has intersectional implications), so anyone can have biases whether they know it or not. International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to reflect on your own beliefs and craft a personal action plan. Think about areas where you might be uneducated or where you might have biases involving gender, sexuality, race, and so on. Commit to being more aware of your actions and educate yourself through books, classes, or other resources.
#10. International Women’s Day is a call to action
IWD matters because at its core, it’s a rallying cry. Some may use it to promote a rose-colored view of the world, but it’s an essential reminder that progress doesn’t happen by accident. All the accomplishments and successes the world celebrates didn’t come easily, but they prove what’s possible. As a call to action, International Women’s Day tells us to look at where we’ve been, see how far we’ve come, and keep fighting for more.
Did you find this article useful? Sign up to our newsletter for paid human rights internships, online courses, master’s degrees, scholarships and other human rights opportunities.