On March 8, the United States will join other UN nation states in celebrating International Women’s Day. This day is a celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. It’s also meant to encourage further progress.
Although progress has been made when it comes to women’s rights and gender parity—both in the US and around the world—the day is perhaps more relevant than ever. Statistics show that there are still a huge number and a disturbing breadth of problems that women uniquely face. From access to education, to child marriage, to the legality of marital rape, to the prevalence of sexual violence, to the gender pay gap, to domestic violence and beyond, women and girls have a long way to go.
The UN declares a theme each year for International Women’s Day. The 2017 theme focused on opportunities and equality in employment. In 2012, the theme was about hunger and poverty. The 2018 theme is “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives.” Over a quarter of the world’s population lives in a rural area, and these women are often left out of urban progress. This year’s theme will include efforts towards several initiatives and issues. Among these will be sexual harassment and assault, with the #MeToo movement being a springboard into more action. Another theme for the day is #PressForProgress, a rallying cry to keep pushing forward.
There will be special events around the world on March 8, including the main event at the UN headquarters in NYC. Speakers will include the UN Secretary-General, Reese Witherspoon, and Danai Gurira.
Some worry that days like this appeal more to “white feminism” instead of intersectional feminism. As Niloufar Haidari puts it for Vice, “For every feminist applauding Emma Watson’s He for She speech, there are hundreds of women of color asking why we still have not been invited to the table.” But the inclusion of many women of color like Gurira, a Zimbabwean-American actress. playwright, and activist, seems to suggest that IWD is intersectional and for everybody.
In other locations, there will be meetings, conferences, dinners, and fun runs. In Nigeria, there will be an educational event for women to learn about building a fashion business. In addition to in-person gatherings, International Women’s Day tends to take over social media for the day.
Can one day really make a difference? Jaha Dukureh, UN Women Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa and activist focused on ending FGM, seems hopeful. She describes positive trends across the African continent and says that “we have created a movement where women are leading the change.” The time is now!