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The importance of International Women's Day (IWD) in today's modern world.

On 8 March, IWD is a day to celebrate women's social, economic, and political achievements, reflect on progress, and demand gender equality.

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Lyndsay Jensen

For over a hundred years, International Women's Day has spotlighted issues affecting women worldwide. The most crucial crisis happening right now is in Ukraine. The one ray of sunshine in all this (or should I say sunflower as it's Ukraine's national flower) is the support from the rest of the EU countries. It's heartwarming to see neighbouring countries all over the EU opening their doors and hearts to newly arrived refugees.

Why should we recognise IWD?

Across the world, less than 15% of countries have a female leader at the helm. Only 24% of senior management are women, and 25% of companies have no female senior managers. Moreover, women do the lowest-paid jobs and earn less money for the same work. This difference in pay is called the gender pay gap, and for young women in many places, including Britain and America, the gap is getting worse. Women are also more likely to do most of the housework and childcare.

When it comes to healthcare and safety, women also face significant inequalities. An estimated 830 women a day die in childbirth. Last year, the UN found that their partner or former partner killed 137 women per day. Worldwide, over 50% of women are murdered by the victim's partner or family. When women have access to health education and care, they are also more likely to be ignored by doctors when they complain of pain, and other severe health problems sometimes go ignored for years.

“I chose a sunflower because when darkness descends they close up to regenerate.” – Halle Berry

What is the history behind IWD?

In 1908, 15,000 women in New York went on strike due to low pay and terrible conditions in their factories. The Socialist Party of America organised National Women's Day the following year. One year after that, there was a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, about equality and women's right to vote. In Europe, the idea grew and became International Women's Day for the first time in 1911, and the United Nations declared 8 March International Women's Day in 1975.

How is IWD celebrated globally?

In some countries, children and men give presents, flowers or cards to their mothers, wives, sisters etc. At the heart of IWD will always be women's rights – so remember to look for worthwhile causes in the area you live in (see our events on page 4 for our IWD events).

The traditions of IWD are still followed today, as many women still wear purple, a colour worn by women who campaigned for women's right to vote called the suffragettes. Recently, marches and protests have gained momentum due to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements against sexual harassment. There is still a lot of work to attain gender equality, but women's movements worldwide are ready to do that work and are gaining momentum.

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