International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the achievements of women worldwide in all their diversity. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. To me – a gender advisor at KIT – it is an important moment to commemorate the past, present and future.
In order to understand where we are today, I feel it is critical to recognize the long history of International Women’s Day and acknowledge its roots in the struggles of working class women in the early 20th century. On March 8, 1917, Russian women workers began a strike for “Bread and Peace” in response to the death of over 2 million Russian soldiers during World War I. After this 1917 Revolution, March 8 became observed as Women’s Day in the Soviet Union and more generally in socialist countries.
I am grateful for the attention International Women’s Day has brought to the cause of gender equality ever since. With the rise of second-wave feminism and global solidarity movements, International Women’s Day became more widely celebrated in the 1960s and was marked for the first time by the United Nations in 1975. Tremendous progress has since been made in gender equality. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of feminists worldwide, the world has seen a significant shift in women’s emancipation and empowerment.
Unfortunately, though, International Women’s Day remains necessary. I am often saddened by the statistics and stories I encounter through KIT’s work on gender. The latest available Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 data shows that the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. COVID-19 and the backlash against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights have slowed progress on gender equality. In most countries, women’s representation in positions of power remains below parity. Gender-based violence remains high. Health, climate, and humanitarian crises have further increased risks of violence, especially for the most vulnerable. Unpaid care work is still largely seen as women’s responsibility, reducing equal opportunities in employment.
As a gender advisor, I am committed to contributing to gender equality and women’s empowerment through my everyday work. Much more is needed to achieve the necessary change and the time to act is now. At KIT, we, therefore, move beyond conventional approaches, instead focusing on the transformative potential of gender work. Inspired by feminist principles, we work towards a deeper understanding of gender relations and their intersections with age, sexuality, and other social markers of inequality. In my opinion, this intersectional feminist perspective will be critical in achieving transformative change and equality for all.
On International Women’s Day, I remember how far we have come in terms of gender equality, commemorating the efforts of feminists worldwide to obtain the freedoms women are able to enjoy today. On March 8, I remember how far we still have to go in terms of gender equality, commemorating the importance of our continuous struggle for social justice. To me, celebrating International Women’s Day remains important.
Many thanks to Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay, and all the women who came before me.
Blog: Felice Davids