gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of
our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.
It’s happening today, somewhere in the world…
International Women’s Day was marked in Spain with an unprecedented strike organized by women workers targeting gender inequality and sexual discrimination. The 24 hour strike was joined by 5.3 million women leading events and street protests across 200 Spanish locations; some of the top women politician had joined it. All of them were shouting “if we stop, the world stops”.
According Eurostat, in Spain, women are paid 13% and 19% less than men in the public and private sectors respectively
That’s why the 8 March Commission which is behind the strike called its manifesto for “a society free of sexist oppression, exploitation and violence” and says: “We do not accept worse working conditions, nor being paid less than men for the same work.”
A poll of 1,500 people for the El Pais daily suggested 82% supported the strike, while 76% thought women in Spain had harder lives than men.
Many public figures supported the events, like the actress Penelope Cruz who cancelled all her planned public events and declared she would go on “domestic” strike, or Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau, the mayors of Madrid and Barcelona who are backing the strike.
It happened in the past somewhere in the world…
International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19 1911, when a million women and men rallied in support of women’s rights on that first International Women’s Day and the idea was inspired by America’s National Women’s Day, declared by the Socialist Party of America on February 28, 1909.
One year later, the Socialist International met in Denmark and delegates approved the idea of an International Women’s Day. But first was called International Working Women’s Day and was celebrated by marches and other demonstrations in 1911 with rallies in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
The result was not immediately efficient; in less than a week after the first International Women’s Day, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146, mostly young immigrant women, in New York City. That incident inspired many changes in industrial working conditions, and the memory of those who died has been often invoked as part of International Women’s Days from that point on; as a result, in early years, it was connected with working women’s rights.
How it’s happening all over the world…
In Russia March 8 was first celebrated in 1913 under the slogan of the struggle for economic and political equality of women. The political readings held in the city on this day were attended by about fifteen hundred women. At the beginning of the First World War 1914 - 1918 March 8 was not celebrated as International Women’s Day, but there were only spontaneous meetings against poor living conditions and high costs of products.
In 1917, on February 23 — March 8 on the Western calendar — Russian women organized a strike, a key beginning of events resulting in the czar being toppled. In 1965 March 8 was celebrated as a public holiday Russia and the celebration became popular for many years in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
Only in 1975 the United Nations celebrated International Women’s Year in 1975, and in 1977, the United Nations officially got behind the annual honoring of women’s rights known as International Women’s Day, a day “to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women’s rights.”
The 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, in 2011, was celebrated in many places around the world, and brought more than usual attention to International Women’s Day.
In 2017 in the United States, many women celebrated International Women’s Day by taking the day off, as a Day without Women. In some cities the entire school systems was closed, taking in consideration that women are still about 75% of public school teachers. Those who were unable to take the day off wore red to honor the spirit of the strike.
UN and the 2030 Agenda
International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
It is also an opportunity to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal number 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls; and number 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.
Some key targets of the 2030 Agenda:
· By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.
· By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.
· End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.
· Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.
· Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
“Time is now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”
This year, International Women’s Day comes on the heels of unprecedented global movement for women’s rights, equality and justice. Sexual harassment, violence and discrimination against women has captured headlines and public discourse, propelled by a rising determination for change.
International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to transform this momentum into action, to empower women in all settings, rural and urban, and celebrate the activists who are working relentlessly to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.
Echoing the priority theme of the upcoming 62nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, International Women’s Day will also draw attention to the rights and activism of rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world population and majority of the 43 per cent of women in the global agricultural labour force.
They till the lands and plant seeds to feed nations, ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. Yet, on almost every measure of development, because of deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women.
For instance, less than 20 per cent of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women stand at 23 per cent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 per cent. They lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
Rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.
On 8 March, join activists around the world and UN Women to seize the moment, celebrate, take action and transform women’s lives everywhere. The time is NOW.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017, focused on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”, called upon all actors to Step It Up for Gender Equality towards a Planet 50-50 by 2030.
For 2018, the theme of International Women’s Day was #Press For Progress. Now, more than ever, there was a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. There’s a strong call to #Press for Progress motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.
Some events marking 8 March held by different nations in 2018.
In Saudi Arabia, women exercised a new freedom as restrictions on their freedoms were relaxed under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: they went jogging
In Mosul, Iraq, women run saying they wanted to win back their rights following the brutal occupation by Islamic State which was ended in July
In Italy, at Rome, a group of prominent Catholic women met to demand a greater say in Church governance. But the list of speakers angered the Church and Pope Francis has declined to attend or celebrate Mass. A former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, described the Catholic Church as an “empire of misogyny”
Activists in China have been angered by the approach of retailers who have dubbed the day “Queens’ Day” or “Goddesses’ Day” and offered women customers discounts on goods such as cosmetics
Several female journalists in Ukraine started a Facebook drive called “I am not your darling”, in response to President Petro Poroshenko’s use of the term in a reply to a woman reporter
In France, the daily paper Liberation raised its price on Thursday - but only for men. Women pay the standard €2, while men have to cough up another 50 cents to highlight the gender pay gap. President Emmanuel Macron also pledged to “name and shame” companies that pay women less than men for doing the same work
Prince Harry and fiancée Meghan Markel went to Millennium Point in Birmingham in the UK to encourage young women students to pursue a career in math’s or sciences
Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said it was fitting the country had on this day finalized the wording for a referendum on whether to liberalize abortion
Women stand up for right to work in Turkey
Gender pay gap in cricket angers Indians
Iran jails woman for removing headscarf in public
While leaders across Africa praised the role of women, the government in Ivory Coast decided to update a list of jobs that women are banned from doing. The labor laws now preclude “work that exceeds the ability and physical capacity of women, or work that presents dangers which is likely to undermine their morality, for example, working underground or in the mines”.
All over the world, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
We need to change the social norm. We need to move towards a society where men are not afraid to be vulnerable and women are allowed to be independent; a society where being male or female has no impact on how a person lives their life; a society where the pressure is off and everyone can be themselves.
For further information visit The UN women’s Right website, email to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, or text only to 00220-7774469/3774469 from 3-6 working days.
Author Professor Aurora Martin Chief of Unit, National Agency for equal opportunities between Women and Men, Ministry of Labour and social Justice of Romania.