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INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY




If you don’t already have International Women’s Day marked in your calendar, there’s still time to get organised! It’s always been a big day for us at IWDA, but after the turmoil of 2020, it feels particularly important to stand together.


Here’s a bit more about the history of International Women’s Day, how it started, and why it’s so important.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (8 March) is a day for us to join voices with people around the world and shout our message for equal rights loud and clear: “Women’s rights are human rights!”


We celebrate all women, in all their diversities. We embrace their facets and intersections of faith, race, ethnicity, gender or sexual identity, or disability. We celebrate those who came before us, those who stand beside us now, and those who will come after.

It’s a time to celebrate the achievements of women, whether social, political, economic or cultural.


What is the theme for International Women’s Day in 2021?

The global theme for International Women’s Day in 2021 is Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’. COVID-19 has impacted women and girls in profound ways, amplifying the inequalities they face every day. It is fundamental that diverse women’s voices and experiences are central to national and global recovery plans.


A key contributor to a more equal COVID-19 world is increasing women’s access to leadership roles. Unfortunately, women still face significant cultural, socio-economic and political barriers to accessing leadership. You can read more about this in our research Women’s’ Pathways to Leadership: Our Pathways, Our Voice, which investigates how and why women become leaders, and the gendered barriers they face along the way.


The history of International Women’s Day

In 1908, against a backdrop of terrible working conditions and exploitation, 15,000 women took to the streets in New York protesting for shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.


The next year the Socialist Party of America announced a National Women’s Day to honour the strikers, and in 1910 it went global – the Socialist International voted for the creation of a Women’s Day to advocate for suffrage. The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, and more than a million people turned out to rallies in Europe.


For most of the 20th century International Women’s Day was acknowledged and celebrated by people at the grassroots level, a rallying point for social justice. It wasn’t until 1975 – International Women’s Year – that the United Nations adopted International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it is still held.


Why does International Women’s Day matter?

Because we’re not there yet.


IWD is a day to recognise how far we’ve come towards gender equality, and also how far we have left to go. Back in 1911, only eight countries allowed women to vote, equal pay for equal work was unheard of – if women were allowed to work at all – and reproductive rights were non-existent.


We have come a long way. Whereas once women couldn’t vote, we’re now leading countries. While we once faced restrictions on where we worked, we’re now running corporations. In countries such as Australia we have rights our grandmothers could only have dreamed about, but we still don’t have complete equality. And the majority of the world’s women aren’t anywhere near as close to that goal as we are.


More than 100 years ago, that first march was about ending harmful workplace conditions, equal rights, equal pay, and an end to exploitation. And sadly, those aims are still relevant today.