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8 March is International Women’s Day - devoted to celebrating the achievements of women and seeking gender equality. The theme this year is #BreaktheBias - and campaigners are urging people to call out gender stereotyping and discrimination when they see it. But when did International Women’s begin and why do we still need it today?
“Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.”

It began life as National Women’s Day in the United States back in February 1909. The following year, at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark, women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin called for an international women’s day to give women a greater voice to further their demands for equal rights.

It was unanimously approved by the female attendees from 17 countries, including Finland’s first three women MPs. International Women’s Day was marked for the first time in March 1911 - and the date was fixed as 8 March in 1913. The United Nations celebrated it for the first time in 1975.

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International Women’s Day is celebrated as a national holiday by countries across the globe, with women often given flowers and gifts - and there are IWD events in major cities worldwide.

On 8 March, 1914, there was a women’s suffrage march in London, calling for women’s right to vote, at which high-profile campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst was arrested.

In 2001, the internationalwomensday.com platform was launched to reignite attention for the day, celebrate women’s achievements and continue to call for gender parity.

On the centenary in 2011, sitting US President Barack Obama called for March to be known as Women’s History Month. He said: “History shows that when women and girls have access to opportunity, societies are more just, economies are more likely to prosper, and governments are more likely to serve the needs of all their people.”

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

The Global Gender Gap Report tracks progress towards closing gender gaps on a national level. To turn these insights into concrete action and national progress, we have developed the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators model for public private collaboration.

These accelerators have been convened in ten countries across three regions. Accelerators are established in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Panama in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank in Latin America and the Caribbean, Egypt and Jordan in the Middle East and North Africa, and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.

All Country Accelerators, along with Knowledge Partner countries demonstrating global leadership in closing gender gaps, are part of a wider ecosystem, the Global Learning Network, that facilitates exchange of insights and experiences through the Forum’s platform.

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In 2019 Egypt became the first country in the Middle East and Africa to launch a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator. While more women than men are now enrolled in university, women represent only a little over a third of professional and technical workers in Egypt. Women who are in the workforce are also less likely to be paid the same as their male colleagues for equivalent work or to reach senior management roles.

In these countries CEOs and ministers are working together in a three-year time frame on policies that help to further close the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and removing unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator countries you can join the local membership base. If you are a business or government in a country where we currently do not have a Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.

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