to recognize and focus upon the principle of equality between men and women. It became the
first international agreement to do so. It was in 1975 that the U.N. celebrated the first
International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8. IWD came to light because of the efforts of the
labor movement in North America and Europe. The day became official in 1977 with the passage
of a General Assembly resolution pronouncing this day to be a U.N. Day for Women’s Rights
and International Peace.
Through the years, the day has taken on added global significance shedding light on the
inequities in the international system for women from a political, social, cultural and economic
standpoint. It is a day to build support for women across the world.
One document that seeks to remedy the plight of women globally is the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development adopted in 2015 as the successor to the Millennium Development
Goals (MDGs). It comprises 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Gender equality and
women’s empowerment is key to the success of the SDGs. Several of the SDGs point directly to
the importance of the role of women in society, including SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being;
SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 5: Gender Equality and; SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities.
The 2019 theme of International Women’s Day is: “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for
Change.” This year’s theme ties in perfectly to what the SDGs hope to accomplish. In addition
to the ambitious “Planet 50-50 by 2030” agenda, this year’s focus emphasizes thinking “outside-
the-box”; specifically, developing “innovative approaches that disrupt ‘business as usual’” which
is vital to “ensuring that no woman and no girl is left behind.”
In the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the gap between men and
women remains large and closing this gap needs to be given high priority. Women must have the
ability to have their voices and ideas heard in order to transform “future societies.” In this vein,
IWD 2019 will look to many sectors of society, including private industry and business start-up
ventures to speed the process of gender equality.
There is no doubt there is work to be done if we are to achieve the gender balance the 2030
Agenda seeks. If one is skeptical as to why we need an International Women’s Day, one does not
have to look further than the statistical reporting on this issue. It provides the evidence. For
example, thirty-three percent of women globally have experienced some form of physical
violence in their lifetime. Each minute 6 women are threatened with female genital mutilation
(FGM) and every 2 seconds a girl under the age of 18 is married. These figures heighten the
motivation that the global community needs to pressure governments who allow for such
behavior to continue.
IWD is a day, not only to highlight the progress women have made, but also to educate global
citizens regarding the injustice and indignity women continue to suffer in many nations. The
respect of women and their rights is at the heart of IWD. The cultural beliefs many nations
espouse allow for the continuation of such atrocities.
In 2005, the late U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, delivered remarks at the forty-ninth
session of the Commission on the Status of Women marking the 10-year review of the Beijing
Conference and Platform for Action. He said the following: “…study after study has taught us
that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”
Moreover, he added, that “…women themselves have the right to live in dignity, in freedom from
want and from fear.”
No more eloquent words could have been spoken to encapsulate the central focus of IWD. It is
imperative now that all of us take them to heart and speak out when we see injustices being
perpetrated upon women and girls around the world.