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International Women's Day

International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women's Day (IWD), an official United Nations Holiday. 

International Women's Day is observed differently in different parts of the world. In some countries, it is a public/national holiday and a day off of work while in other countries it is a day to recognize women celebrated in various ways.

International Women's Day is a day to celebrate the courage and determination by women in our society both politically and socially who have played a role in history. It is a time to bring awareness to women's issues and the struggles worldwide. And it is a day to show love and appreciation, in a Mother's Day manner, to the women in their lives.


History of International Women's Day

The history of the origin of the celebration dates back to Woman's Day, aka National Woman's Day, in the early 1900's during a time of great social unrest around women's inequality. In 1908, women in America took to the streets and marched for voting rights and better pay and working conditions. 1909 was the first National Woman's Day celebrated on February 28th. From there, the movement took hold across Europe and the World. Women's movements and Women's Day celebrations were observed on various dates in countries across Europe as women demanded equal rights. While most were celebrated in February and March, it wasn't until the United Nations set an annual date, that it became a set observance in most countries. 

The United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day in 1975, also proclaiming the year International Women's Year. It was not officially recognized until 1977 when the UN invited member states to take part in celebrating and raising awareness for women's rights.

Every year since 1996, the UN chooses a new women's issue to highlight and plans the annual observance around a campaign to raise awareness for women's rights in relation to the year's theme. 

UN International Women's Day Annual Themes

  • 1996: Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future
  • 1997: Women and the Peace Table
  • 1998: Women and Human Rights
  • 1999: World Free of Violence Against Women
  • 2000: Women Uniting for Peace
  • 2001: Women and Peace: Women Managing Conflicts
  • 2002: Afghan Women Today: Realities and Opportunities
  • 2003: Gender Equality and the Millennium Development Goals
  • 2004: Women and HIV/AIDS
  • 2005: Gender Equality Beyond 2005; Building a More Secure Future
  • 2006: Women in Decision-making
  • 2007: Ending Impunity for Violence Against Women and Girls
  • 2008: Investing in Women and Girls
  • 2009: Women and Men United to End Violence Against Women and Girls
  • 2010: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All
  • 2011: Equal Access to Education, Training, and Science and Technology: Pathway to Decent Work for Women
  • 2012: Empower Rural Women, End Poverty, and Hunger
  • 2013: A Promise is a Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women
  • 2014: Equality for Women is Progress for All
  • 2015: Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!
  • 2016: Planet 50–50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality
  • 2017: Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030
  • 2018: Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives
  • 2019: Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change
  • 2020: "I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights"
  • 2021: Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world
  • 2022: Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow


International Women's Day Around the World

These are some of the current countries that celebrate International Women's Day as a national public holiday. Some of these countries only allow a day off of work for women only. And note that while some of these are declared as national days in the country, not all of them are public days off of work. 

Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (women only, half day), Eritrea, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos (women only), Madagascar (women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (Nari Dibas, women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Zambia. 

Women's Day is not as much about outward protest these days. In some countries, such as Russia and China, where these types of protests are forbidden, the day is celebrated much like Valentines Day and Mother's Day. Gifts and flowers are given to show respect to the women in your life. Some governments and big business are putting the focus on women's beauty and gift giving in order to change the focus. And while women's day is celebrating women, the focus should be on the value of a woman and her voice, not her outward appearance. 

In other countries, women are still taking to the streets and marching, holding rallies and speaking up for women's rights. 

Ways to Celebrate Women's Day

  • Join or start a group or movement to speak up against inequalities and women's rights
  • Celebrate women's achievements through history
  • Celebrate with the women in your life and do something fun together.
  • Flowers, Gifts, and Food gatherings are a great way to show you are thinking about and care about the women in your life. 
  • Take a special woman who has influenced your life to lunch
  • Give a shout out to women business owners you know to bring more business to women
  • Show lots of love and respect to your mother and grandmothers, aunts, and sisters. 


How ever you observe International Women's Day, be sure to appreciate women of the past and present and their role in today's changing world. 

See 31 Influential Women for the 31 days of Women's History Month

See Also: Women's History Month



International Women's Day