In 1975, the United Nations began observing International Women’s Day – an occasion to celebrate women’s achievement – and in 1977, officially recognized it in a resolution calling for United Nations Day for Women and International Peace.
This year’s theme is “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.” We have seen the heroic efforts of women stepping up to battle a global pandemic, from world leaders in Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland and New Zealand among many others who are exemplars in managing the health crisis response and keeping their citizens safe and informed, to essential workers in hospitals and grocery stores and on farmlands, to mothers and caregivers and educators handling professional and personal responsibilities including children’s remote learning. Any leader will tell you she didn’t get where she is – nor is she staying there – on her own. Along the way, she was supported by others who pulled her through doors they opened and up behind them on ladders they climbed. And when women lead, communities are better and stronger, more equitable and more just.
In more than 150 countries, women at UNFPA work everyday to fulfill the mandate that every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled. There is the family planning outreach worker ensuring women’s access to contraception is uninterrupted in COVID-19 times. There is the midwife putting her health at risk to ease a baby’s entrance into the world. There is the counsellor or shelter worker aiding a gender-based violence survivor and a life skills trainer educating girls to avoid child marriage and female genital mutilation, impressing upon them their right to bodily autonomy that will inform the decisions they make for themselves going forward. Those girls are our future leaders. "A woman who cannot realize bodily autonomy may face compounding barriers to equality throughout her life, undermining the range of rights and choices required to become a leader," said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. "That is why we must ensure women both gain skills and opportunities to lead, and can build on a firm foundation of bodily autonomy."
The day marks the achievements of women, among them the support that allows other women to achieve, too.
And in case you were wondering, Why 8 March? The date is linked to protests in Russia in 1917, when women were granted the right to vote. Protests began 23 February on the Julian calendar, which Russia followed then and corresponded to 8 March on the Gregorian calendar, largely used around the world today.