International Women’s Day 2021 IWD: Celebrating a Girl
The celebration takes place every year on 8 March. Here’s what you have to hear about 2021.
This year, Covid-19 has put an end to many things. But one thing on the calendar is still International Women’s Day (IWD), a global event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political, the economic, and the social – while demanding equality between women and men. The day is celebrated since the beginning of the 1900s and is recognized on 8 March each year.
IWD really started to gain traction during the #MeToo movement: it has since been becoming increasingly important and is recognized by millions of individuals, companies, and charities worldwide.
The day is usually filled with art performances, conventions, protests, networks, conferences and marches all over the world. Naturally, things will look a bit different this time around.
But the pandemic has also acquired its own unique challenges – from loss of work to increased domestic violence and the burden of homeschooling – which make the need for the IWD more urgent this year than ever. While the day began a century ago, it remains for very good reasons.
Here’s what you need to remember…
How did the case begin?
It is difficult to specify an exact date. The first National Women’s Day was recognized in the United States on 28 February 1909, as it was known. It was spurred on by Clara Lemlich, a Ukrainian suffragan, who requested that 15,000 garment workers strike in New York receive equal wages, reduced work hours, and better working conditions. In honor of these workers the next year, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day.
The day was formalized when, in 1910, a woman named Clara Zetkin, head of the Social Democratic Party’swomen’s offices’ in Germany, proposed an International Women’s Day. She suggested that on one day every year every country should honor women in order to press for their requests. After a conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, IWD was created. Slowly the festival started to gather momentum around the world and was held for the first time in 2011 in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on 19 March.
In 1913, it was agreed to move IWD to 8 March, and since that day it has been celebrated.
Why should we celebrate it still?
Unfortunately, because there is still a pressing need for the day: the initial goal of achieving gender equality for women in the world was not achieved. Gender pay gaps still remain, women leaders are still missing, abuse against women and girls continues and women continue to lag behind men in education and health care. Last year, the UN estimated that nearly 90% of people worldwide are prejudicial toward women. On the IWD, women around the world come together to shed a light on these disparities – while highlighting women’s accomplishments that have overcome these obstacles.
In reality, the need to celebrate this year is more urgent than ever. ONU Women’s global data indicates that the pandemic could bring back gender equality by 25 years because of women doing considerably more homework and family care. Counting Dead Women’s research has calculated at least 16 domestic violence killings of women and children in the first three weeks of the British lockout.
Health care was affected, too. Marie Stopes reports that 9.5 million women and girls in the world are at risk of losing access to their coronavirus contraceptive and abortion services, while thousands of other women skip life-saving testing on breast cancer and smear.
“All we’ve been working for, that took 25 years, could be lost in one year,” says Anita Bhatia, Senior Director of ONU Women. She adds that the burden of treatment poses a “true risk that gender roles will return to the 1950s.” The goals of Telegraph’s Equality Check initiative, launched in June, are reflected in the lock-out of the gender gap.
The condition before the pandemic was not much better, however, when women were estimated to be burdened with three-quarters of sixteen billion hours of unpaid work done worldwide every day. In 2019, women in the UK essentially worked ‘free’ because of the gender pay gap from 14 November until the end of the year. According to recent gender wage gaps, women are still paying less than half as men in some of the largest UK businesses.
Abortion rights have remained a controversial matter for women’s rights activists, which was intensified in the US in September 2020 following Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death. At the beginning of 2021, abortion was banned in Poland, triggering protests on the streets of the region.
What is the theme of this year?
IWD 2021’s official theme is “Choose to challenge” in recognition of the need to identify gender preference and discrimination. When women around the world are fighting the social, economic and political consequences of Covid-19, this is more necessary than ever.
The theme last year was #EachforEqual, aimed at recognizing the actions we can take as people to counter the myths and recognize the accomplishments of women.
How do you involve yourself?
Despite the pandemic, you can still deal with IWD in many respects.
To address the theme of this year, IWD organizers are asking people to strike the challenging choice – with their hands high – and share it on Social Media to support an inclusive world. Some entries will be published on the IWD website and feed on social media. You can also download the selfie cards #ChooseToChallenge.
Alternatively, you might concentrate on fundraising for a charity with a focus on women. Despite the pandemic, by 2020 IWD has already succeeded in raising a six-figure amount. Catalyst, Womankind Worldwide, and Dress for Success are their favorite charities. More about IWD charities is available on their website.
You can also run your own hybrid or digital case. The IWD Web site lists a number of ways to organize your own event in your local community, networks, groups, and organizations.
How do you this year mark IWD?
The day is usually marked with marches – the biggest one in London is the March4Women march. There are also many events in the UK and the Festival of Women of the World (WOW) which takes place in the center of Southbank.
Naturally, things will look different in 2021 – but a host of free and tickled activities are still going on all over the world.
The #March4Women this year, organized by CARE International, will be an online auction day. The underlying message is “Stop Telling Half The Story,” which seeks to demonstrate that women are still overwhelmingly absent from decision-making and power positions. In 2019, the share of women in senior management positions rose to 29 percent globally. Although this is the highest number ever registered, the figure remained the same in 2020 – and it still has a long way to go to reach a 50% representation.
The organization calls on the UK Government to champion the dynamic leadership of women globally. They want UK Women’s Leadership and Rights Aid; various women’s leadership in the recovery of Covid-19 in the UK and internationally in G-7; and diverse women’s leadership in the climate response at COP 26. #SheLeadsInCrisis recognizes the tremendous role women have played in dealing with the pandemic. You should register here to participate.
The equation also hosts its annual IWD event online by inviting a number of speakers to Zoom every Monday in March. Many boardrooms remain male-dominated areas, but women’s continuing progress demonstrates the importance of putting women’s voices at the table.
If culture is yours, why not take the British Women’s Music Century of 1921-2021 Livestream concert on March 8, led by violinist Madeline Mitchell? Or if you need a little amid lockdown, the interactive Imposter Syndrome Masterclass IWD2021, led by Ditching Imposter Syndrome writer Clare Josa, might be just the ticket.
But if you have “Zoom fatigue” – and, let’s be honest, who isn’t – then you can enjoy some activities. In London, on 7 March the IWD 2021 ‘Rise Together Walk,’ hosted by Rising Women, a charity that wants to empower and educate children. The day begins at Euston Station at 11 a.m. and attendees will follow a preplanned path across London visiting statues of women who have made history (registration is £15). See the official IWD website for a complete list of activities in your local area.
You can also support IWD (and reward yourself) with shopping from various brands that have agreed to participate in The Princes’ Trust campaign #ChangeAGirlsLife. All donations would improve education and job prospects for young people in the United Kingdom. The white business, Elemis, Whistles, and Phase Eight participants, all of whom, on the 8th of March, donate to the Princes’ Trust.
How is IWD celebrated across the world?
Each country has their own unique way of celebrating the day. It 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.
Like in the UK, this year celebrations around the world. Barbados is hosting a three-day immersive and interactive event called ‘Undeniably You’. A series of speakers will give talks, with the aim of tackling the lines between gender and race. France is hosting a virtual event run by a class of french pupils, who will present a talk about a businesswoman who inspires them. Meanwhile, in Canada, they are planning a virtual celebration, started with some guided meditation and ending with a networking session. Head to the IWD website to see the full list of events happening around the world.