In case you missed it, International Women’s Day just passed by on Tuesday, March 8th. After years of women battling for some form of recognition or celebration, the first official International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1975 by the United Nations. The day was created solely to commemorate women and their accomplishments, as well as a way to call everyone to action in continuing the fight for women’s rights across the globe. It should be noted that International Women’s Day is simply a day dedicated to making space for these voices that can often be overlooked or taken for granted. It is about celebrating all women (or women-identified people) regarding their contributions to the world. This includes mothers, sisters, friends, role models, doctors, artists, teachers, scientists, engineers, authors, athletes, activists – the list could go on!
However, it is also a day to recognize all the voices that are not yet heard, and all the achievements yet to be made. This is why since 1996, International Women’s Day has annually adopted themes. This year’s theme by the United Nations was “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality,” which essentially calls to appoint more women to serve our countries, companies, and governments in order to be more inclusive in our choice of leaders. This recognizes the importance of incorporating women’s voices in world issue discussions in order to truly move forward, specifically within the United Nations in order to be an example of this change. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, spoke on this theme, saying, “Stepping it up means coming out of the ‘business as usual,’ and making sure that the gaps we’ve identified in our evaluation of the way we’ve worked in the last 20 years are being addressed. We are calling men and boys to be part of a solution. That is stepping it up.” This theme speaks on the fact that the progression has been slow, and will not improve if we continue our ‘business as usual’.
International Women’s Day contributed to this theme in order to encourage gender equity. The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. A year later in 2015, they estimated that the slow progression actually meant the gender gap would not close until 2133. This inspired the campaign #PledgeForParity, which pushes people to consider how they can commit to promoting gender equality in order to speed up the process.
The Women’s Center at the University of Minnesota celebrated the day with the event “International Women’s Day: A Call to Action” at the Women’s Center Study Lounge in 65 Appleby Hall. On the morning of, volunteers from the Women’s Center group, the Feminist Ambassador Brigade (FAB) handed out free coffee by the East-West Bank bridge in celebration of the day. From 12-2 pm, the lounge was full of people of all genders eating cake and food, taking pictures at our photobooth, making feminist buttons, and Pledging for Parity in support of the theme for International Women’s Day. The Women’s Center is a safe space for people of all genders on the University of Minnesota campus, so the celebration does not have to stop! Please feel free to stop by the Women’s Center any time to hang out with other students and share ideas to promote gender equality on our campus.
Overall, International Women’s Day was created as both a means of celebration and a call to action to further gender equity. It is a day to take a moment to remember how far we have come, as well as how far there is to go. There are many manners of celebrating, both big and small, however, it is important to remember these actions matter every day of the year. Our hope is that this day will simply inspire us to stand in unity and remind ourselves in this journey that we are a strong and active community every day of the year.
How will you change the world in 2016?