Taking a look at a Necessary Celebration Around the World
On Thursday, March 8, women from Iqaluit to Jakarta will be celebrating International Women’s Day. Beginning in 1911 and held annually ever since, International Women’s Day celebrates women’s achievements while simultaneously advocating and mobilizing for change and movement away from gender-based discrimination. Every year on March 8, governments, businesses, women’s organizations and other entities join forces in order to honour the day with speeches, celebrations, rallies, and other events.
This year’s theme is called #PressforProgress, developed as a response to the Weinstein Scandal, #metoo and #TimesUp movements, and a growing public discussion of the gender wage gap. The World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report found that it will take 217 years to close the gender gap around the world, a number we will not and cannot accept. Therefore, #PressforProgress urges not only women, but entire communities, to unite in action against gender disparity, making this not only a women’s issue, but a human one as well.
The United Nation’s Headquarters will be holding an observation of International Women’s Day at their headquarters in New York City. Speakers to discuss women’s issues include the UN Secretary-General, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Reese Witherspoon, and Danai Gurira. The UN has chosen to focus on the activism of rural women around the world, and what they do to transform and improve the lives of women in their communities.
Canada’s theme for International Women’s Day is #MyFeminism, where Canadian women are encouraged to state what feminism means to them. Celebrations include marches across the country in major cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver. Calgary is also holding a UNITE! benefit concert to celebrate women who have paved the way for equality.
London, England is hosting a variety of women-centric events including talks, workshops, and film screenings. There is also a Women of the World Festival taking place from March 7-11, where female speakers will be working to tackle the question of why gender equality is taking so long . An organization known as Kitrinos Healthcare is also hosting an event discussing how their sewing and knitting club in refugee camps helps to inspire women living there. The products these refugee women have made will also be for sale, helping to prepare refugee women for life beyond the camps.
India’s focus for this year’s International Women’s Day is sexual harassment in the work place. In order to target this, many large corporations are hosting workshops to discuss and learn how to prevent sexual harassment. Last year, thousands of women protested in many cities across the country as a response to the nation’s rampant sexual assault problem. Protests of a similar nature are expected to occur again. Meanwhile, a company in Nigeria, known as The Enterprise Development Centre, is focusing on small and medium businesses and their female entrepreneurs by setting up networking events for women. In many countries such as Russia, Armenia, Cambodia and Cuba, International Women’s Day is a national holiday and it is tradition for women to both give and receive yellow flowers. In China, women are given a half day off work to honour the holiday. In Italy, mimosa blossoms are given to women as a part of the celebration.
In previous years, the most common celebration of this holiday was a protest for something that has been identified as a priority to address. Women in Georgia have advocated against the glass ceiling in the workplace; women in Bangladesh rallied to demand for safety, while women in the Philippines protested the lack of food. Protests and rallies, though not always advertised in advance, are expected to dominate the celebratory activities on March 8. as there is still more work to be done. It is important to note that the experiences and struggles of women around the world are not homogenous. While some women are focused on equal pay, some are focused on the right to safe and adequate health care. However, the overarching factor that unites women on this day, and is the reason for this holiday, is the fact that all women experience inequality, and all women will no longer be complacent.