This week people across the globe will celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women on International Women’s Day.
Observed on 8 March every year, the day is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of women’s equality and fundraising for women-focused charities.
The event was officially recognised by the United Nations in 1975 and has since come to be celebrated in more than 80 countries worldwide.
Here’s everything you need to know about the international holiday.
How did International Women’s Day begin?
International Women’s Day (IWD) has its origins in the US. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights.
Spurred by the demonstrations, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Woman’s Day, which was observed in the US on 28 February.
Later in 1910, a woman named Clara Zetkin, a member of the Social Democratic Party in Germany, tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day.
Zetkin proposed that the day should be the same in every country to both celebrate women and provide an opportunity for them to press for change.
Zetkin’s suggestion received unanimous approval from 17 countries, including Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland and the US.
The following year, in 1911, more than one million women attended IWD rallies for women’s rights on 19 March.
As more countries joined the celebration, a global date of 8 March was agreed upon by 1914, which has remained the same since.
IWD was officially recognised by the United Nations in 1975.
What is this year’s theme?
The International Women’s Day website has announced that this year’s theme is #BreakTheBias.
The organisation is calling on people to “imagine a gender equal world” which is free of biases, stereotypes and discrimination against women.
“Continuing to examine the opportunities, as well as the constraints, to empower women and girls to have a voice and be equal players in decision-making related to climate change and sustainability is essential for sustainable development and greater gender equality,” the UN said.
“Without gender equality today, a sustainable future, and an equal future, remains beyond our reach.”
Is there a colour theme?
Purple, green and white are the colours of IWD.
“Purple signifies justice and dignity. Green symbolises hope. White represents purity, albeit a controversial concept,” the International Women’s Day website reads.
The colors originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK in 1908.
How can you take part?
In accordance with its #BreakTheBias theme, IWD organisers are asking people to pose with their arms crossed as a symbol of their commitment to calling out bias, dismantling stereotypes, and rejecting discrimination and inequality.
The public is being encouraged to photograph themselves in the pose and submit pictures to the official website. If you want to take part, you can do this here.
Separately, the UN is hosting a virtual event which will explore how women across the world are responding to the climate crisis.
Speakers at the event include primatologist Jane Goodall DBE, climate justice activist Maria Reyes and environmentalist Katharine Wilkinson. You can sign up for the event here.
In London, IWD will be gathering to raise awareness of gender pay inequality.
Under the UK’s Equal Pay Act, paying women less than men for the same work is prohibited. However, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that a pay gap between men and women persists, with men earning 7.9 per cent more than women in 2021.
On Tuesday, IWD will be staging “a public act of resistance” outside some of London’s biggest businesses. The meeting point for those who wish to take part is the Duke of Bedford monument, Russell Square from 8am. Find out more here.
This International Women’s Day, The Independent is hosting a virtual panel discussion on the gender health gap. Find out more here.
Le’Nise Brothers, author of You Can Have A Better Period, is also taking part in an Ask Me Anything on practical things women can do to help painful and heavy periods. Find out more here.