International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th in honour of movements towards equality and women’s rights. The first historical observance of a day celebrating women was held in New York in 1909, with the day eventually becoming adopted by the United Nations in 1975. Recent years have looked at the UN’s “Planet 50-50 by 2030” agenda. It focuses on sustainable development goals, in particular number 5, ‘achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls’; and number 4, ‘ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning’. Some key targets the UN aim to achieve by 2030 are to ensure that all girls and boys complete free, quality primary and secondary education; to end all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere; and eliminate harmful practices such as trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced marriages and female genital mutilation.
The theme for 2018 is #PressforProgress and is fuelled by recent movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp, all striving for gender equality. With men still occupying the majority of leadership positions and a widening economic gender gap, UN Secretary General António Guterres has said, "On International Women’s Day, let us all pledge to do everything we can to overcome entrenched prejudice, support engagement and activism, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment."
This year comes after a resurgence of women’s marches similar to those in the early 1900s at the origin of the suffragette movement for women’s rights. Over the past two years on January 21st, millions of women around the world have taken to the streets to advocate for legislation and policies regarding human rights, women’s rights, immigration reform, LGBTQ and racial equality. Originally held in America in protest against the inauguration of Donald Trump, it soon became a more global movement with 5 million people worldwide estimated to have participated in the first women’s march in 2017.
International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world including the countries where COCO works. In Uganda the day is an official holiday to acknowledge the contribution women make to their families and also to promote the treatment and empowerment of women. This is one of the many steps Uganda has made to promote and safeguard the rights of Ugandan women, but tradition and customs at times contradict these moves taken against violence and discrimination towards women. At the heart of the problem is the fact that women are still considered inferior to men - equality will never be possible while this remains the case.