International Women's Day 2017: What is it, how did it start and why is it so important?
What is International Women's Day?
International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements – from the political to the social – while calling for gender equality.
It has been observed since the early 1900s and is now recognised each year on March 8. Is is not affiliated with any one group, but brings together governments, women's organisations, corporations and charities.
The day is marked around the world with arts performances, talks, rallies, networking events, conferences and marches.
Last year, there was a Google Doodle marking the celebration featuring women and girls across the world who complete the sentence ‘One day I will’, talking about their dreams and ambitions.
What's happening today in London?
There are a host of free and ticketed events taking place across the capital today, including talks, workshops and film screenings. Hear from inspirational women such as award-winning filmaker Gurinder Chadha, and leading female business figures to discuss women's appearance in the workplace.
For a full list of events in your local area, check out the official International Women's Day website. If you can't attend an event in person, keep your eyes on social media for live streamed events, such as The Body Shop's panel discussion: How can business be a force for good?
Tickets for the Southbank Centre's Women of the World Festival, taking place until the 12 March, are also on general sale this morning. Take your pick of the best talks, exhibitions and concerts celebrating women worldwide.
What's happening around the world?
Spurred on by their success in January, the organisers of the Women's March on Washington have launched a new campaign: A Day Without Women. They are encouraging women in the USA and worldwide to strike from work on 8 March in protest at the economic inequality, prejudice and insecurity faced by women in the workplace. They are also encouraging women to wear red to show their solidarity with the movement.
Industrial action is also being encouraged by the International Women's Strike organisation, which has branches in over 20 countries. Inspired by the March on Washington, they hope to raise awareness for women who have been marginalised because of their ethnicity, class, sexuality or disability.
How did it start?
It’s difficult to say exactly when IWD (as it’s known) began. Its roots can be traced to 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding voting rights, better pay and shorter working hours.
A year later, the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the US on February 28, in accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America.
In 1910, a woman called Clara Zetkin – leader of the ‘women’s office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany – tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She suggested that every country should celebrate women on one day every year to push for their demands.
A conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries agreed to her suggestion and IWD was formed. In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19.
In 1913, it was decided to transfer IWD to March 8, and it has been celebrated on that day ever since. The day was only recognised by the United Nations in 1975, but ever since it has created a theme each year for the celebration.
Where are we now?
The first IWD to be officially recognised was in 1911, so the centenary was celebrated in 2011. This year is the 106th.
In 2011, former US President Barack Obama proclaimed March to be ‘Women’s History Month’.
Why do we still celebrate it?
The original aim – to achieve full gender equality for women the world – has still not been realised. A gender pay gap persists across the globe and women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics. Figures show that globally, women’s education, health and violence towards women is still worse than that of men.
According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap won't close until 2186.
On IWD, women across the world come together to force the world to recognise these inequalities – while also celebrating the achievements of women who have overcome these barriers.
Is there an International Men's Day?
Yes, it takes place on November 19 each year and is celebrated in 60 countries around the world.
The objectives of the day include a focus on men's and boy's health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models.
It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.
The month of November is also a chance for men to take part in the popular 'Movember' charity event, by growing facial hair for charity sponsorship.
What’s this year’s theme?
The theme for IWD 2017 is #BeBoldForChange - encouraging people to step up and take groundbreaking action to help drive gender equality. It's an active message that is likely to resonate with the millions of women, girls and men who have taken to the streets to march this year, in opposition to divisive politics.
How can you get involved?
There are many ways you can take part in IWD.
1. Make a pledge for parity
This involves going to the IWD website and pledging to help women and girls achieve their ambitions; call for gender-balanced leadership and create flexible cultures.
2. Join one of the many events happening around the world
The IWD website shows where events are happening in countries and towns.
For instance, there are major festivals taking place - including the global HeForShe Arts Week, run by UN Women as part of Emma Watson's gender inclusivity campaign.
3. Host your own event
It’s still not too late. IWD encourages people to host a prominent speaker and create an event of their own.
Facebook have created a live stream event called #shemeansbusiness, in which they are encouraging female entrepreneurs and business owners to share their stories and encourage other women to consider careers in business using Facebook Live.
Can I march?
Yes. Mass demonstrations are planned around the world in the wake of January's 'March on Washington'. In the UK, between 80,000 and 100,000 women and men are thought to have marched in UK cities on the first day of Donad Trump's presidency.
How is IWD celebrated across the world?
Countries celebrate it in different ways. 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.
Other countries celebrate it in a similar way to Mother’s Day with men presenting their wives, girlfriends, mothers and female friends with flowers and gifts.