This is everything you need to know about International Women’s Day 2019

IT'S a day that sees the world come together to celebrate the achievement of women from all corners of the globe.

Friday, 8th March 2019, 11:16 am
Updated Friday, 8th March 2019, 12:20 pm
Celebrate International Women's Day

And with the celebrations for International Women's Day in full flow today, here is everything you need to know about the annual event:

1) What is International Women’s Day and when did it start?

International Women’s Day is marked every year on March 8 and celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

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The cultural movement was sparked by a huge protest in New York in 1908, attended by about 15,000 women who were demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote.

Officially, the United Nations said the first formal women’s day event took place the following year, when the Socialist Party of America took to the streets to honour the efforts of the female campaigners from the New York rally. They called it National Women’s Day and it was held on February 28.

From this, the movement spread across the Atlantic. In 1911, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland celebrated their own events marking women’s achievements on March 19. More than one million people attended rallies focused on suffrage, representation, education, and workers' rights.

Over the next few years, more countries in Europe marked the holiday. However, it wasn’t until March 8, 1975, that the United Nations finally marked it as an official, global event.

2) What is this year’s International Women’s Day all about?

International Women’s Day always has a different theme each year. This year’s is ‘Balance for Better’ and focuses on achieving a gender-balanced world.

Previous themes have included ‘Press for Progress’, in 2018, ‘Be Bold for Change’, in 2017 and ‘Pledge for Parity’ in 2016.

On top of the official International Women’s Day theme, the UN has also issued its own message to mark the day: ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.’

3) Just how equal is society?

Despite progress in some countries, efforts are still needed to make society truly equal.

Women still struggle to reach top leadership roles compared to men. Out of 197 countries, only 22 have women as their heads of state. 

A recent UN report showed women still earned an average of 24 per cent less than men do worldwide. This wage gap is by far the worst in south Asia, where women earn 33 per cent less than men.

And although women outpace men in both secondary and higher education, unemployment rates disproportionately affect women worldwide. A recent study showed that global female employment-to-population ration was only 47.1 per cent. While for men, it was 72.2 per cent.

According to UNICEF, approximately 31 million girls of primary school age, and 32 million girls of lower secondary school age, were not in school in 2013. That means an estimated 63 million young girls worldwide were out of school.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap report, gender parity won’t happen for more than 200 years, so the global International Women's Day campaign has its sights set on lowering that number by focusing on calls-to-action year round.

4) How do other countries celebrate International Women’s Day?

The event is a huge occasion in many countries. In places like Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Uganda, Mongolia, Georgia and Laos it is a national holiday.

Likewise, Cambodia, Armenia, Belarus, Montenegro, Russia, and Ukraine also mark March 8th as an official holiday.

In the same way that Mother's Day doubles as a sort of women's appreciation day, the two holidays are combined in some countries, including Serbia, Albania, Macedonia, and Uzbekistan.

On this day, children present their mothers and grandmothers with small gifts and tokens of love and appreciation.

5) How can you show your support online – what are the official hashtags for International Women’s Day?

There are several ways to get involved online. For example, by using the #WomensDaythis on Twitter and it will automatically populate the female-gender-sign emoji.

Other ways to show your support include using this year's thematic #BalanceforBetterthis and the straightforward #IWD2019, which also gets the female sign decal on Twitter.