The Story Behind International Women´s Day, and Its Meaning in 2021

Picture Credit: UN Women/Yihui Yuan

The 2021 UN theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world”, highlighting the impact that girls and women worldwide had as health care workers, caregivers, innovators, and community organizers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its associated Hashtag is #IWD2021 and #InternationalWomensDay.

A historic journey that still continues

International Women´s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year and it is a symbolic day of the historic journey women around the world have taken to better their lives. Every year it comes as a reminder that while a lot has been achieved for women, the journey is long and a lot more needs to be done.

History and significance

The earliest International Women’s Day can be traced back to February 28, 1909, in New York City. It was called “National Woman´s Day” organized by the Socialist Party of America to commemorate a protest by garment workers in New York on March 8 in 1857.

However, the first official celebrations happened in 1911. Important events happened the year before in August 1910, when an International Socialist Women´s Conference was organized before the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen, Denmark. German delegates Clara Zetkin, Kate Duncker, Paula Thiede were inspired by the American socialists and proposed with others the establishment of an annual “Women´s Day”. The conference comprised 100 women from 17 countries who unanimously agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights including right to vote for women.

The following year 1911 on March 19, International Women´s Day was marked for as the first time. More than a million women from several European countries (Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany) took to the streets to demand for the right to vote, and the right to hold public offices. Women also protested employment sex discrimination and equal pay.

The day has been predominantly celebrated by communist countries and socialist movements until 1967, when the United Nations recognized the day and started celebrating it as the International Women’s Day we have come to know of today.

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Theme for International Women´s day 2021

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” . We are celebrating the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in fighting for a more equal future and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.

Women of the world want and deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence. We have not achieved a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all yet. To get us there, the world needs women at every table where decisions are being made and therefore, it is this year´s topic priority.


Because when women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world. Yet, women under 30 are less than 1 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide. 

Women’s full and effective participation and leadership in all areas of life drives progress for everyone. According to recent UN Secretary-General’s recent report, women are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making. “Women are Heads of State or Government in 22 countries, and only 24.9 per cent of national parliamentarians are women. At the current rate of progress, gender equality among Heads of Government will take another 130 years.”

Women are also at the front-line of the battle against COVID-19- as front-line and health sector workers, doctors, scientists and caregivers, yet they get paid 11 per cent less globally than their male counterparts. An analysis of COVID-19 task teams from 87 countries found only 3.5 per cent of them had gender parity.

Generation Equality

As 100 years ago, we are witnessing that the International Women´s Day is still crying for Gender Equality. Today, we are celebrating all women across the world but let´s not forget the need to take an action for an equal future not just for women, but for ALL. We need more women leaders, visionaries, and activists from around the world to push for transformative and lasting change for generations to come.


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