international women's day:
the past, the present, and the future

Article by Cia Mangat

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In short, International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women and their achievements while calling for gender equality. It takes place on the 8th of March every year. International Women’s Day is an official holiday in a number of places, including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. In some countries, it is celebrated in a similar way to Mother’s Day: men present their wives, girlfriends, daughters, sisters, mothers and female friends with flowers and gifts.

The first National Women’s Day was observed in the United States on the 28th of February 1909. The day was designated by the Socialist Party of America in honour of the women who had taken part in a garment workers’ strike in 1908. In 1910, Clara Zetkin - leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party - suggested an International Women’s Day: meeting in Copenhagen, a conference of over 100 women from 17 countries agreed with her, therefore deciding to commemorate the women’s rights movement and gain support for universal suffrage for women. IWD (as it’s known) was marked for the first time on the 19th of March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies.

International Women’s Day has often been used as a vehicle to protest other causes, such as the First World War (in 1913 and 1914) and the protests of Russian and women for bread and peace in 1917. During International Women’s Year in 1975, the United Nations recognised the 8th of March as the official International Women’s Day.


This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange. There are plenty of ways that you (yes, you!) can get involved for yourself. You could:
  • Educate yourself! Read up on International Women’s Day in detail here and here.
  • Pledge to support the causes that IWD seeks to fight for on their website.
  • Take part in one of the hundreds of events taking place worldwide over the next week, such as HeForShe Arts Week - here’s a full list of events taking place on International Women’s Day this year.
  • If you’re in London, you could take part in the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre, running until the 12th of March.


Unfortunately, the original aim of International Women’s Day and the Women’s Rights movement has not yet been achieved. Although progress has been made, gender inequality still exists: for example, the global gender pay gap isn’t likely to close anytime soon, women only hold 5.8% of CEO positions at the S&P 500 companies (e.g. Apple, Microsoft and Starbucks), and only 22.8% of all national parliamentarians are female, as of June 2016. Any intersectional feminists reading will note that these issues are mainly prevalent in first-world countries; examples of gender inequality across the world include the fact that 62 million girls are being denied an education, 4 out of 5 victims of human trafficking are female, and FGM (female genital mutilation) affects over 125 million girls and women today.
Here are a few charities, funds and organisations seeking to eliminate gender inequality that you can donate to:

We’ve got a full doc full of organisations, charities and volunteering resources - gender equality-related and otherwise - here.