International Women’s Day, or March 8 of every year, is one to celebrate the achievements of women in every field and a call to action to accelerate gender equality around the world. 

Across the globe, there are a wide range of activities and actions to mark International Women’s Day – parties and festivals along with the more serious rallies, campaigns, and conferences centering the accomplishments of women and advances towards gender equality.

International Women’s Day has its roots in the early twentieth century, during the turbulent time of first-wave feminism. In the Czech Republic, the United States, and other countries in the Western world, various suffragette movements rallied for legal rights and workers rights. International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1911 by only four countries – Austria, Germany, Denmark, and Switzerland – on March 19. At the time, more than a million women and men attended commemoratory rallies to affirm women’s right to vote, work, and be protected against discrimination. Since then, International Women’s Day grew to be celebrated by millions around the world and became a national holiday in 27 countries. 

Students in the Czech republic prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day Photo by: Mathilde Kjeldberg

This increase aligns with the growth of feminism, and the expansion of voting and legal rights, throughout the twentieth century. By 1975, the the United Nations marked the first International Women’s Day and the first theme of International Women’s Day, “Celebrating the past, planning for the future” was introduced in 1996. This year’s theme is to #EmbraceEquity.

This year, International Women’s Day aims to encourage discussions around why equal opportunities are not enough when discussing the advancement of women’s rights around the world. Equity in society, as well as political circles, is fairness with the acknowledgement that social disparities exist and we must make appropriate adjustments to ensure a world that is truly “equal” to all. Equality is simply fairness in the social, political, and economic sectors of society and is ultimately what International Women’s Day hopes to achieve.

But what does equality even look like?

We have always known a world where this vision of equality remains just that – a vision. We have learned history and read stories where women were repressed, dehumanized, and silenced by men. Our mothers, grandmothers, their grandmother’s grandmothers only knew this world as well. Will our daughters, granddaughters, and our granddaughter’s granddaughters hold the same vision or live it as their reality?

Since the beginning of the feminist movement, small strides have been made in the social and political rights of women in numerous countries across the world. Albeit challenged in some countries, women are business owners, politicians, and scientists. They have built their own chair and pulled it up to the table. In some countries, women are still trying to make space for their chairs. With the recent movement in women’s rights in Iran, it is more important than ever to recognize this and acknowledge the importance of International Women’s Day.

This International Women’s Day is an important day to ponder these questions, ponder answers to gender equality, and celebrate the achievements of women in all walks of life.