International Women’s Day: Why is it still important in 2024?

Things to consider this March 8th.

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. This globally recognised event serves as a powerful reminder of the achievements of women throughout history and the ongoing journey towards gender equality. Here in Australia, we unite with women across the globe to reflect on our progress and commitment to further empowerment for all.

In the modern landscape of gender equality, one might question the necessity of an event like International Women’s Day in 2024. With advancements in women’s rights and increased awareness of gender issues, some may argue that the significance of International Women’s Day has diminished.

However, despite progress, the reality is that there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, and there are many reasons why we need International Women’s Day now more than ever.

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day, commonly abbreviated as IWD, is an annual event celebrated globally to honour the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is also a day to raise awareness about gender equality issues and advocate for women’s rights across the globe.

When Did International Women’s Day Start?

In 1910, Clara Zetkin, the leader of the Women’s Office for the Social Democratic Party in Germany, attended the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen and proposed the idea of International Women’s Day. The following year on March 19, the first event was held, and women across Europe held meetings and protests in its honour.

In Australia, the first International Women’s Day event was organised by the Militant Women’s Movement in 1928 in Sydney. Back then, they called for equal pay for equal work, paid leave and better working conditions. The next year Brisbane followed suit, and from 1931 annual marches were held in Sydney and Melbourne.

When is International Women’s Day?

Since 1913, International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th.

What is the 2024 theme for International Women’s Day?

This year, the theme set by the United Nations is ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’, highlighting the great economic need for gender equality.

In the Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals: The gender snapshot 2023 report it found that there will be a $540 billion (AUD) annual deficit in spending on gender-equality measures by 2030.

The United Nations outlined the key areas of ‘Invest in Women’:

  • Human rights
  • Ending poverty
  • Implementing gender-responsive financing
  • Shifting to a green economy and care society
  • Supporting feminist change-makers

What is the Purpose of International Women’s Day?

The purpose of International Women’s Day is to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women, highlight the ongoing struggle for gender equality, and promote women’s empowerment worldwide. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to raise awareness about issues such as gender-based violence, discrimination, and unequal access to opportunities.

Why do we still need International Women’s Day?

Persistent Gender Inequality

While significant progress has been made towards gender equality, disparities persist in various aspects of life. Women continue to face systemic barriers in the workplace, with gender pay gaps, underrepresentation in leadership positions, and workplace discrimination remaining prevalent issues.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) released its 2024 gender pay gap results last month: Australia’s total remuneration gender pay gap is 21.7 per cent and, on average, for every $1 a man makes, women earn 78c.

Additionally, gender-based violence, including domestic violence and sexual assault, continues to plague societies worldwide.

From data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Personal Safety Survey, just over 1 in 4 women have experienced partner violence or abuse, compared to 1 in 7 men. In a new report released by Homelessness Australia, 45 per cent of women and girls seeking homelessness assistance do so due to family and domestic violence.

And how are governments responding? The United Nations found that, globally, only 5% of government aid is focused on tackling violence against women and girls, and less than 0.2% is directed to its prevention.

International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the urgent need to address these persistent inequalities and work towards a more equitable future for all.

Amplifying Underrepresented Voices to Foster Inclusivity & Intersectionality

International Women’s Day provides a platform to amplify the voices of women who are often marginalized and underrepresented in mainstream discourse. The ‘More Voice. More Representation’ campaign surveyed 202 women, trans, gender-diverse, and non-binary people, and 59% of respondents stated they did not feel represented in International Women’s Day conversations, coverage and events. International Women’s Day offers an important opportunity to centre the experiences of women of colour, LGBTQ+ women, women with disabilities, and other intersectional identities whose struggles may be overlooked or dismissed.

It is particularly hard to celebrate the achievements of women here at home, when war is raging across the globe. When it comes to the Israel-Palestine war, the United Nations reported that over 9,000 women have been killed in Gaza, 37 mothers are killed every day, and nearly 9 in 10 women (87 per cent) report finding it harder to access food than men. Although this has been consistently missed each year, we have the opportunity to use International Women’s Day as the vehicle to foster greater awareness, empathy, and understanding of the diverse challenges and injustices women face and ensure that we are driving meaningful action to change this.

Inspiring Future Generations

International Women’s Day serves as a source of inspiration and empowerment for future generations of girls and young women. By celebrating the achievements of women and highlighting their contributions to society, we can instil confidence and ambition in the leaders of tomorrow. It sends a powerful message that gender should never be a barrier to success and that every girl has the right to pursue her dreams and aspirations. Through mentorship, education, and positive role modelling, we can empower young women to become agents of change in their communities and beyond.

Continuing the Conversation

Perhaps most importantly, International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to continue the conversation about gender equality and women’s rights. It serves as a catalyst for ongoing dialogue, activism, and advocacy, keeping these issues front of mind. By raising awareness and fostering meaningful discussions, we can build momentum for positive change and work towards a more just and equitable society for all.

How to get involved in International Women’s Day

There are numerous ways to celebrate International Women’s Day and contribute to the global movement for gender equality. Here are some suggestions for how you can get involved:

  1. Educate Yourself: Take the time to learn about the history of International Women’s Day and the achievements of women in your community and around the world. Knowledge is a powerful tool for driving change.
  2. Support Women-Owned Businesses: Show your support for women entrepreneurs by shopping at women-owned businesses or investing in women-led initiatives. Your patronage can make a significant difference in empowering women economically.
  3. Advocate for Gender Equality: Use your voice to advocate for policies and initiatives that promote gender equality in your workplace, community, and society at large. Whether it’s through grassroots activism or speaking up in your daily interactions, every action counts.
  4. Celebrate Women’s Achievements: Take the time to celebrate the women in your life and acknowledge their achievements. Whether it’s your mother, sister, friend, or colleague, let them know that their contributions are valued and appreciated.
  5. Join the Conversation: Engage in discussions about gender equality and women’s rights or attend local events and panel discussions. By raising awareness and fostering dialogue, we can inspire positive change.

International Women’s Day remains as relevant and necessary in 2024 as it has ever been. It serves as a rallying cry for gender equality, a celebration of women’s achievements, and a call to action for a more inclusive and equitable world. As we commemorate International Women’s Day this year and beyond, let us reaffirm our commitment to advancing the rights and dignity of women everywhere.

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