On the first International Women’s Day, more than a century ago, one million women and men in five countries took to the streets to rally for women’s economic, social, and political rights. Their efforts helped women secure the right to vote and make other important gains.
International Women’s Day—which falls every year on March 8—is still celebrated as an important holiday in many countries. It’s a time to honor everyday women for their accomplishments and salute the efforts of notable women around the world.
Women are key to changing the humanitarian system
In an emergency, women and children account for more than 75 percent of people who are forced to leave their homes. Although men and boys also endure severe challenges during and after crises, the discrimination women and girls face makes them more vulnerable to hardship and indignity.
Women are doubly affected by disasters: first by the loss of their homes and important household assets like tools to earn income; and next by the impossible choices some must make to survive the dangers they must navigate.
As caretakers for children, the sick, and the elderly, women often face an increased work load following a disaster—at the very time when they have even less support and fewer resources. But it is because of their central role in their families and communities that women can also play a key role not only in responding to emergencies, but in preparing for and preventing them.
In the fight to end poverty, women are on the front lines.
But when women can exercise their rights and gain the knowledge, skills, and information they need, they can become powerful agents of change. Consider these facts:
- Worldwide in 2008, nearly 800 million people over the age of 15 could neither read nor write—and two-thirds of them were women.
- In most countries, women are paid on average 60 to 75 percent of what men make.
- As of July 2013, women worldwide made up fewer than 21 percent of national legislators.
- Of all credit offered in developing countries, only 10 percent of it is available to women, making it more difficult for them to start businesses or take out loans.
- An estimated 150 million people in 34 developing countries could escape hunger if women had the same access as men to the assets they need for farming.
Empowered women can change the world
Through our work in more than 90 countries, Oxfam helps women and girls overcome gender discrimination, realize their potential, and assume leadership roles in their communities. When you join us in celebrating International Women’s Day, you’re playing an important role in these efforts. See how you can take action and inspiring stories below about women around the world.