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Girls & Women

The history of International Women's Day

International Women’s Day is one of my favorite days of the year. It’s a chance to recognize all of the incredible and strong women in our lives who inspire and motivate us. It’s a time to reflect on the significant progress that has been made for women’s rights over the years and an opportunity to pay tribute to all of the remarkable women who have paved the way. But most importantly, it’s a day to think about all of the women and girls around the world who still face adversity every single day. For me, International Women’s Day serves as an important reminder of how much work is left to be done in the fight for gender equality.

As International Women’s day is coming up this Sunday, March 8th, I started to wonder about the history of the holiday and how it came about. This is what I learned:

The holiday first emerged from the labor movements in North America and Europe at the turn of the twentieth century. Since then, International Women’s Day has become a global celebration for women all around the world.

In 1909 the first National Women’s Day was celebrated. By 1910, the holiday became more international in nature as the fight for universal suffrage for women expanded across the globe. Throughout the years, International Women’s Day has served as a platform for women (and men!) to rally together and advocate for women’s rights. Whether it was protesting for the right to vote or ending discrimination in the workforce, International Women’s Day has fostered unity and activism.

In 1975, the United Nations decided to switch things up and celebrate the holiday on March 8th. Two years later it became an official UN recognized holiday. Over the years, different events have expanded  the vision for International Women’s day, and it continues to evolve.

In 1995 a historic roadmap for gender equality was established in Beijing and The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was introduced. 189 governments from around the world came together and agreed on critical areas for empowering women. The roadmap called for “a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.”

This year, thousands of events, rallies and conferences will be held throughout the world to inspire women and to celebrate their achievements. The 2015 theme of International Women’s Day is “Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!”. Governments and activists will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and women and men all over the world will celebrate all that has been done in the movement for women’s rights.


From day one, International Women’s Day has been about the fight for gender equality.  I think Emma Watson beautifully captured how essential gender equality is in her last speech at Davos when she said this:

“There is a greater understanding right now than ever that women need to be equal participants in our homes, our societies, our governments, and our workplaces. And that we know the world is being held back in every way because they are not. Women share this planet 50/50 and they are unrepresented, their potential astonishingly untapped.”

I couldn’t agree more. This Sunday, let’s take the time to recognize the important women in our lives, and challenge ourselves to be advocates for gender equality.