International Women’s Day (IWD) has served for more than a century now as a day to honor the achievements of women globally. But where is the Unites States on this day?
Observed EVERY Year (except in the USA) on March 8, IWD celebrations around the world, share a common thread of celebrating progress.
IWD was first celebrated in 1911 in only four European countries, where they held rallies drawing thousands of supporters. for the next 60 years it was primarily a European event. In 1975 the United Nations made March 8 the official celebration date for a global International Women’s Day. Today IWD has been used to draw awareness to everything from voting rights and protections from abuse for women and eve AIDS. Some Cultures also use it to acknowledge the women in their lives and family such as mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives with flowers, candy, cards and trinkets of affection and recognition.
As you can see from few examples below there are many ways to celebrate this day.
1. Asia Pacific
Many women in China will have a half-day off of work in honor of IWD, and some employers even shower their female employees with gifts, according to CNN. In Indonesia, one local organizer is sharing a song she wrote called Lebih dari Berlian, or More than a Diamond, which celebrates Indonesian women. The idea is to have young students learn the song, and sing it together every March 8 and April 21, the date of Indonesia’s Women’s Day.
In Fiji, women’s rights organizations are bringing together young girls to talk about the importance of strong female characters in popular culture and fiction. The University of Canterbury in New Zealand, meanwhile, will host a breadth of panel discussions, open to the public, on women in the media, politics, and business to honor the date.
+ According to UN Women, nearly 20 countries and territories in the region have passed laws prohibiting domestic violence.
– More than 80 percent of women in Asia Pacific are employed in “vulnerable jobs,” like unregulated, home-based work, and the UN estimates this can cost the region close to $89 billion annually.
2. Asia: South and Central
In Afghanistan, a new Internet cafe and haven for women will have its grand opening in honor of International Women’s Day. The cafe, located in Kabul, is dedicated to Sahar Gul, an Afghan woman who was forced to marry at 14 and was abused by her in-laws. “She claimed not only her body and womanhood, but also her freedom as she resisted for months under torture and inhumane treatment,” writes Young Women for Change, the NGO hosting the event and opening the new cafe, which aims to help Afghan women communicate and connect.
Meanwhile, one event in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan, takes friendly competition to a new level. The celebration includes contests in dry-flower arrangement, drama, cooking and dining. In Islamabad, a consortium of NGOs, government affiliates, and private enterprises are joining in the first “Women at Work” festival. The five-day celebration, kicking off on today, includes more than 100 stalls staffed by female workers from “all walks of life,” and also features traditional food, art, and entertainment.
The Turkmenistan government will honor mothers by awarding a special title and badge to women with eight or more children, according to The Times of Central Asia. More than 160 Turkmen women are expected to receive the award this year, which may include perks like free tooth replacements and public transportation.
+ Central Asia has achieved gender parity for secondary education, according to the 2011 Millennium Development Goal report.
– Data from 57 countries show that when women are a part of the police force, more citizens report incidents of sexual assault, according to UN Women. In South Asia, however, women make up, on average, 3 percent of the region’s police.
3. Sub-Saharan Africa
Female “footballers,” or soccer players, are invited to an event in Buwate, Uganda, to celebrate this year’s IWD. Girls have an opportunity to participate in soccer drills with the Buwate Youth Soccer club, while a similar event is held in Sierra Leone, sponsored by the Craig Bellamy Foundation. Both events aim to raise awareness of issues related to gender inequality and empowerment of women through sport.
In Bamako, Mali, some women are marking IWD with a peaceful march to raise awareness about female genital mutilation. They hope to educate men and women about the thousands of females exposed to the dangerous practice, which has powerful cultural roots but can cause serious health problems for women.
+ Twenty-eight countries have reached or surpassed 30 percent female representation in legislative bodies, and of those countries, eight are located in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN.
– Nearly 50 percent of respondents to a seven-country survey by the UN in sub-Saharan Africa agreed it is sometimes or always justifiable for a man to beat his wife, according to UN Women.
Eurostat, the European Union’s statistical office, released a number of gender statistics in the eurozone – ranging from gender ratios to shopping trends – in honor of IWD. For example: In every member state, the proportion of women at risk of poverty or social exclusion, which includes limited access to housing, health care or employment, is higher than men.
Specific events in Europe include a brunch for survivors of domestic abuse and violence held inTullamore, Ireland, and a UNWomen-Ireland-sponsored literary event, with a public reading of short stories featuring women from James Joyce’s book Dubliners.
In Spain, a multimedia project has been organized, where women across the country can send in photos, texts, or videos with examples of women who have inspired them. A performance of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues is taking place in Brno, Czech Republic, while a “women’s empowerment workshop” has been organized in Norway, encouraging self-awareness and empowerment for participants through dance, music, and meditation.
+ Laws prohibiting domestic violence are on the books in all but four European countries, according toUN Women.
– Between 8 and 35 percent of women in 20 European countries have been physically abused, according to UN Women.
5. Latin America and Caribbean
Women are invited to meet on the Dr. Arnaldo Avenue Bridge in Sao Paola, Brazil, this year, as part of a global effort, fittingly called “Join Me on the Bridge,” to bring women and men together to call for peace and equality. Last year, 75,000 people stood on 464 bridges in 70 countries, according to the organizer’s website.
Almost 60 percent of high-skilled jobs in Jamaica are held by women, according to the British newspaper The Independent on Sunday. This includes positions in politics and business, and makes Jamaica home of the highest women-to-high-skilled-job ratio. One women’s rights activist plans to hand out cards and candy to women in the workplace in Jamaica to honor IWD and women’s achievements in her country.
In Mexico – where scores of journalists have been killed since 1992, and five journalists were murdered in 2011 alone, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists – an international literary organization is leading an effort to raise awareness of the risks women writers face in the region. Efforts include writing Mexican authorities and assembling obituaries of female writers who were killed in Mexico.
+ Some 53 percent of women in the region are active labor force participants.
– The gender pay gap in Latin America and the Caribbean, largely in synch with global trends, results in females receiving up to 40 percent less in compensation than males.
6. Middle East and North Africa
A contemporary art exhibit is being held at the MISR gallery in Cairo, Egypt. The artwork by Nadine Hammam will “address the existing fears of a persistent patriarchal military dictatorship in the present Egyptian context,” according to the gallery’s Facebook page.
Honoring the day through arts is an approach used in the West Bank as well, where a series of billboard-sized photos are displayed throughout Ramallah. Five female photographers’ work is displayed in the project “we are from here,” meant to raise awareness of gender issues, according to the exhibit’s website.
And in Morocco, IWD is cause for a night out on the town. Two telecommunications companies -Alcatel Lucent and Meditel – are giving out free movie tickets so that “all women can go to the cinema” for free on March 8 [though the press release notes (in French) that tickets are limited to female clients of the phone operators].
+ Four Middle East and North African (MENA) countries prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, including Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Laws outlawing domestic violence were recently passed in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, according to the UN.
– Female representation in the labor force in MENA is nearly one-third of that of men. The UN estimates close to 26 percent of women are a part of the labor force.
7. United States (?) and Canada
The Canadian government’s theme for IWD this year is “Strong Women, Strong Canada.” Many celebrations are focused on honoring women who live in rural communities. “In rural and remote areas, women make up approximately 45% of the labor force, but significant gaps still exist between women and men in labor force participation rates, employment rates and income,” reads a statement on the government’s Status of Women Canada website. Events in honor of IWD include speakers, networking opportunities, and a Tahitian dance performance.
IWD is commemorated on the computer screens of people across the world as US-based Googlehonors women through its “Google Doodle.” The logo, which shows up when using the Google search engine, incorporates the universal symbol for female as a stand in for the first G, and the use of the color violet visually echoes the official logo for Women’s Day.
+ The proportion of women in the US Congress increased from 11 to 17 percent between 1997 and 2010.
– The pay gap between men and women is 23 percent in the US and 28 percent in Canada, according to UN Women. The gap is even larger for African American and Latina women in the US, between 39 and 48 percent.