Tuesday is International Women’s Day, which will be celebrated with events around the world. Each year, March 8th – and the week in which it falls – provide an opportunity to take stock of our progress towards gender equality and to honour the contributions women have made and are making — both in Canada and around the world.
Each year, March 8th – and the week in which it falls – provide an opportunity to take stock of our progress towards gender equality and to honour the contributions women have made and are making — both in Canada and around the world.
International Women’s Day Beginnings
International Women’s Day emerged at the turn of the twentieth century, originating out of the activities of labour movements in North America and across Europe. The first IWD was observed on March 19, 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.
It was Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906), an American social reformer and feminist, who said “It would be ridiculous to talk of male and female atmospheres, male and female springs or rains, male and female sunshine…. how much more ridiculous is it in relation to mind, to soul, to thought, where there is as undeniably no such thing as sex, to talk of male and female education and of male and female schools.”
In 1975 the United Nations’ recognized the importance of the women’s movement and made it official in 1977 by selecting March 8 as chosen day. Throughout the UN system IWD is also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
This year’s message from the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon.
Celebrating a Year of Success for Women in Canada
2015 / 2016 has been a great year for women around the world, with major steps taken towards gender equality. In Canada, thanks to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the new Federal government announced the ground-breaking gender parity in Cabinet. Women’s issues have now risen to the forefront of popular culture, creating national conversations about the struggles and successes of women around the world.
Canada’s Labour movement has been a powerful force for women’s equality and positive change, at the workplace and in society. Today subjects such as harassment and gender discrimination are more publicly discussed. Doors are opening to women and it is more common to see women working in trades and technology. There are more women holding leadership roles and participating in political arenas.
From maternity and parental leave to public pensions, from equal pay to workplace safety legislation, today there is fairer treatment and more acknowledgement in the workplace for women in Canada. Although it isn’t perfect and many challenges remain, Canada looks forward to much more improvement in the areas of race, disability, Aboriginal status, age, sexuality and gender identity and expression.
International Women’s Day Themes and Events
The 2016 United Nations theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. The idea of this theme is to consider how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda. 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. Step It Up asks governments to make national commitments that will close the gender equality gap – from laws and policies to national action plans and adequate investment.
Oxfam’s theme is WOMEN UNLIMITED. POVERTY UNDONE.
The theme was expanded by the United Nations in 1975 with the International Women’s Year. By 1977, the United Nations had adopted a resolution designating March 8 as International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day in Canada
Each country will put their own face on this theme to make it their own. In Canada, our theme is –
Women’s Empowerment Leads to Equality
The Canadian theme is based on the belief that empowerment is essential to gender equality. Empowerment is having the tools to make better choices. Women and girls who are empowered are better equipped to fulfill their potential and contribute their best to society.
- Having access to education
- Getting involved in the community
- Becoming financially independent
- Understanding your right to live free from violence
- Knowing how government works and exercising your democratic rights
Empowerment is also the right to having a voice that is heard. This year, 216, is the 100th Anniversary of Women’s First Right to Vote in Canada.
Each year thousands of events occur celebrating International Women’s Day – large global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, fun runs, corporate events, concerts and performances, key speaker events, online digital gatherings and more. Events are held by many types of groups including women’s networks, corporations, charities, educational institutions, government bodies, political parties and the media.
Suggestions on how to celebrate International Women’s Day:
- Invite an accomplished woman to speak to a group you’re involved in (school class, club, church, youth group, etc.) about her experiences and career development.
- Recognize the achievements of an exceptional woman in your community by profiling them in a local paper or on your blog, making a donation to a charity in her name, or nominating her for an award (such as the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case).
- Take part in or organize an International Women’s Day event in your community.
- Tell others about the significance of this day by writing an article, letter to the editor or blog post, or by sharing your thoughts on social media
- Start a group at your school or work to organize an International Women’s Day celebration on March 8.
- Download the International Women’s Day poster and put it up in your office, home or community.
- Encourage young people to get involved in celebrating International Women’s Day by developing a lesson plan, creating an exhibit, completing a project, or staging a play.
- Learn more about the challenges facing women around the world by reading about women pioneers or watching a documentary, film or television program on women’s issues.
- Donate your time to a cause that supports women and gender equality. There are many interesting projects focused on gender equality in your community and around the world.
- Talk with men and boys about their role in advocating for women’s rights.
- Organize a spirit day at your workplace or school to raise awareness of International Women’s Day.
- Plan a fundraising event (e.g. bake sale, used book sale, etc.) at your workplace or school for a charity that works with women or works to advance women’s rights (e.g. a women’s shelter).
What will International Women’s Day Mean to You?
International Women’s Day gives us all a powerful way to celebrate women’s achievements and to advocate for greater action and investment to create an equal society. On this day, let’s celebrate women’s strength and courage at home and around the world. The women you love, the women who inspire you, the women that you wish you were more like, the women you wish you could spend more time with, and the women who need help.
Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
~ Kofi Annan, seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations