Today is March 8th. It’s a Tuesday. It is also International Women’s Day (IWD) – a day recognised all around the world as a celebration of women’s political accomplishments, women in the arts, working women, women of various cultures, women’s empowerment, and women’s economic and social achievements. It is also a day dedicated to promoting global gender equality, discussing economic parity, and encouraging feminist progression across all societies. As it stands, International Women’s Day is already recognised as a national holiday in twenty-seven countries including Russia, Uganda, Cambodia, and Cuba.[pullquote]International Women’s Day is already recognised as a national holiday in twenty-seven countries including Russia, Uganda, Cambodia, and Cuba.[/pullquote]
This year, the United Nations-selected theme for International Women’s Day is Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up For Gender Equality. The campaign plans to build on initiatives the UN have had in motion for years, aiming to end violence and discrimination against all women, ensure every young girl has the same opportunities as every young boy, and to achieve a gender-equal planet within the next fifteen years.
A separate IWD campaign has also been launched in conjunction with financial firm Ernst & Young. The campaign is called #PledgeForParity, and focuses on the gross inequalities still existing between genders in the workplace. According to the World Economic Forum, complete global gender parity will not be achieved until 2133 – over one hundred years in the future. Pledge for Parity is using this year’s International Women’s Day to speed up this process by emphasising the importance of women in senior roles, encouraging supportive work environments for women, and accelerating culture change across the world.
In a message to the millions of people celebrating IWD this year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke of the significant new highs women had reached, the positions of leadership they had attained, and the endless improvements he had seen in gender equality since he began working with the organisation.
We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards. Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers.
However, Ki-Moon’s statement also mentioned the countless women around the world who are still discriminated against, who are still experiencing gendered violence like female genital mutilation and rape, and who are still facing economic and social restrictions purely because they are women. The Planet 50-50 by 2030 campaign is not only promoting equality for women everywhere, but also advocating for more women in authoritative positions to lead this desperately needed global change.[pullquote]According to the World Economic Forum, complete global gender parity will not be achieved until 2133 – over one hundred years in the future. Pledge for Parity is using this year’s International Women’s Day to speed up this process.[/pullquote]
Here in Ireland, we’ve already seen such success with the recent introduction of thirty five women to Dáil Éireann – a record high for Irish government. Yesterday, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) celebrated these women with #FemGen; an event featuring many of the thirty five female TDs set to return to the Dáil this Thursday.
Sinn Fein’s Lynn Boylan, Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell, and People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith, were among those who came together ahead of #IWD2016 to share their experiences running for election. The group also discussed the issues facing modern Irish women today such as the campaign to repeal the eighth amendment, which every panellist agreed needed to be a priority for the next government.
NWCI are involved in a host of events marking this year’s International Women’s Day including the #NWCISoapbox, which will be used to commemorate the women of the 1916 Rising. Following the success of last year’s Soapbox, the group are staging the event again to focus on seven key themes of 1916 – equality, politics, labour, health, creativity, republicanism and pacifism. The event will examine these themes in relation to the Irish women of the Rising, as well as the women of today’s Ireland, with the help of artists, historians, and feminist speakers. Soapbox will take place at the bandstand in St Stephen’s Green this Saturday at 2pm.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland aren’t the only ones remembering Marckievicz, O’Farrell, and Lynn today. Bus Éireann have launched their own visual campaign that will see 650 of their fleet travel the country featuring portraits of women directly connected to the Rising. Similarly, just this morning, a mural was unveiled on George’s street depicting the faces of Countess Markievicz, Margaret Pearse, and Grace Gifford-Plunkett.
— Gearoid O'Dea (@gearoidodea) March 8, 2016
Entitled ‘Le Chéile I Ngruaig,’ or ‘Together in the Hair,’ the piece is the second mural to dominate this spot of the city after Joe Caslin’s marriage equality portrait was created last year. The artist behind Le Chéile I Ngruiag, Gearoid O’Dea, says that his mural was inspired by the very different roles each of these women played in the Rising, and that even though some are more remembered than others, they are all “woven together by strands of hair.”[pullquote]The first International Women’s Day took place in 1908 on the streets of New York, where 15,000 women marched for better pay and the right to vote.[/pullquote]
The first International Women’s Day took place in 1908 on the streets of New York, where 15,000 women marched for better pay and the right to vote. Over the years, IWD has come to mean many things – a celebration, a call to action, a means of inciting progression and change in a world still influenced by gender inequality.
Since the UN began assigning themes to the day, IWD has focused on peace, violence, Afghan women, planning the future, rural women, poverty, young girls, empowerment, education, fair work, fair wages, and equal opportunities for all. It is a day for celebrating everything that we have already achieved, but also for realising that we still have a long way to go.
A full list of global events for International Women’s Day can be found here.