International Women’s Day (IWD)
‘United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace’

International Women's Day 2018
Photo: UN Women/Bruno Spada. Women in Brazil march for women’s rights.
United Nations

March 8 – International Women’s Day

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8 during International Women’s Year 1975. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.

Increasingly, 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.


International Women’s Day 2019

Theme: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”

The theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) this year, “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.

Achieving a gender-equal world requires social innovations that work for both women and men and leave no one behind. From urban planning that focuses on community safety to e-learning platforms that take classrooms to women and girls, affordable and quality childcare centres, and technology shaped by women, innovation can take the race for gender equality to its finishing line by 2030.

It begins with making sure that women’s and girls’ needs and experiences are integrated at the very inception of technology and innovations. It means building smart solutions that go beyond acknowledging the gender gaps to addressing the needs of men and women equally. And ultimately, it needs innovations that disrupt business as usual, paying attention to how and by whom technology is used and accessed, and ensuring that women and girls play a decisive role in emerging industries.

Join us to celebrate women and girls, their limitless imagination, their joyous dreams and their boundless strength.

International Women’s Day 2018

Theme: “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.
People around the world are mobilizing for a future that is more equal. This has taken the form of global marches and campaigns, including #MeToo in the United States of America and its counterparts in other countries, protesting against sexual harassment and violence, such as #YoTambien in Mexico, Spain, South America and beyond, #QuellaVoltaChe in Italy, #BalanceTonPorc in France and #Ana_kaman in the Arab States; “#NiUnaMenos” (‘not one less’), a campaign against femicide that originated in Argentina; and many others, on issues ranging from equal pay to women’s political representation.

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.

International Women’s Day 2017

Theme: “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030”

The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new 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. The theme will also focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

The Real Meaning of March 8

New York, March 8, 1857
129 women on strike killed in burned down factory

The struggle for equality of rights and treatment refers directly to International Women’s Day. The date resembles a strike at a textile factory on March 8, 1857, in New York, led by workers. Their main demands were to reduce the working day to 10 hours, to equalize wages with men (women could receive up to a third of a man’s salary for the same service) and decent treatment within the work environment .

The demonstration was brutally repressed by the police. The workers tried to take refuge in the factory. Police finally locked the doors of the factory, which was burned down, killing the 129 women there.

In 1910, during the Second International Conference of Women held in Denmark, it was proposed that 8 March be declared International Women’s Day in honor of the workers of New York. However, only in 1975, by a decree, the date was made official by the United Nations (UN).

Therefore, International Women’s Day is directly linked to this struggle for equal rights between the sexes.

Chicago, March 8, 1908
120 women died, capitalist bosses set fire to a textile factory

Batay Ouvriye: Most workers in the world don’t know the date of March 8th is of the greatest importance for them.
“Later on, in 1908, the same date of March 8th was once again a memorable date of struggle.
On this day, capitalist bosses in Chicago set fire to a textile factory where over a thousand women worked. A very large number was terribly burnt, 120 died!”

This heinous crime happened simply because the workers were demanding that the legal 8-hour work day be respected, as well as substantial ameliorations of their work conditions since they were working in a hellish environment in which their very dignity was constantly and totally denied. In this factory, however, the workers refused to cower. They fought daily. And having reached a certain level of organization, they held protests, work stoppages and strikes… On this day of March 8th, 1908, instead of obeying the law and satisfying the workers’ legal and legitimate demands, the factory owners decided to bar in this way what they called “the rising disorder”.

Socialist International, 1911

International Women’s Day (8 March) was originally a socialist holiday established in 1911 by the Socialist International and is celebrated by women’s groups around the world write Peg Rapp and Susan Pashkoff. In many countries, it is a national holiday and has recently been officially recognised by the United Nations.
However, up until the 1970’s, with the advent of a new women’s movement, the radical working class roots of IWD had been practically forgotten. Due to its socialist leaning, it was excised from the United States memory, much as Labor Day replaced May Day, except in small immigrant enclaves or radical union groups. In Europe and the rest of the world, it continued to be widely celebrated, but tended to honour women in name only, mostly with flowers or by simply putting a woman’s face on a male agenda. IWD, in fact, was the culmination of a century of women working in the labour, feminist, socialist, and anti-slavery and segregation movements to bring together the common interests of the working class and women’s rights advocates.