5 important questions (and answers) about International Women’s Day

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International Women’s Day (IWD) is a special day to celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. It is celebrated globally on March 8th every year.

IWD is also an opportunity to highlight the call to action to accelerate the work toward gender parity or gender equality. This means ensuring that men and women have equal rights, privileges, and access to opportunities in all aspects of life.

Why do we need to have an International Women’s Day?

Throughout history, trailblazing women have had to fight for the freedom and rights women now enjoy today. These are basic rights such as access to public areas, suffrage, property ownership, education, medical care, and financial independence. Access to these didn’t come instantly or easily. These advances were started and made possible by the hard work and sacrifice of women activists. We have this important day to commemorate their stellar accomplishments.

IWD also reminds us that there is still so much more to do to improve the lives of women worldwide! Issues like the gender pay-gap, domestic violence against women, prevalence of sexual discrimination, among others, continue to be pervasive. We are a long way from women’s equality. In fact, the World Economic Forum reported in 2023 that none of us will see gender parity in our lifetime. Gender parity won’t be attained for well over a century. This makes this celebration all the more urgent and worthy of highlighting.

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Should men celebrate IWD too?

Definitely! When everyone can fully participate in the economy and in nation-building, everyone wins!

Support from men is essential because they make up half of the global population. They are also the ones in majority of leadership positions, so their support can make policy and systems change more possible. As Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist, and activist said “The story of women’s struggle for equality does not belong to no single feminist, nor to any one organization, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”

Aside from their support, men should also see it as an opportunity to celebrate the women in their lives. It’s the perfect occasion to show their appreciation and reiterate their support to their mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, nieces, and female friends and colleagues.

How can you support or celebrate IWD?

There are many ways you can celebrate and support IWD. You can:

  • Celebrate women’s achievements
  • Educate yourself and others, and raise awareness about women’s equality
  • Call for positive change advancing women
  • Lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • Fundraise for women-focused charities

But keep in mind that the best way to celebrate IWD is to support women’s rights every day, not just on March 8th. Women’s empowerment and the promotion of gender equality are essential for sustainable progress and the development of a just society for all.

Is IWD a holiday?

It is not a holiday in Canada. However, there are activities and events you can participate in to celebrate IWD. Check this page to know more: International Women’s Day, Canada.ca.

International Women’s Day is an official holiday in the following countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Germany (a day off only in Berlin), Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Zambia.

Where can I learn more about IWD or women’s rights issues?

Learning more about the condition of women and the various issues they face is an important step to advance the cause. Good on you! You will find more resources at:

Article developed with Lori Morency
Sources: International Women’s Day website; International Women’s Day, Government of Canada; Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow, Marie-Claude Landry and Karen Jensen, Canadian Human Rights Commission; and International Women’s Day, United Nations. Accessed May 28, 2024.

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