The March 8 event honours women of the past, present, and future generations who have fought for change in gender equality and funding female-focused charities.
Under a new annual theme, organisers invite men and women to partake in campaign efforts to raise awareness.
Here’s what International Women’s Day is about and how you can get involved in this year’s event
What is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.
Origins in women’s suffrage have evolved into a day of celebration and advancement of women’s rights.
How did International Women’s Day begin?
The first official International Women’s Day was in 1975, when it was recognised by the United Nations (UN).
But its origins began earlier, in 1908, when a women’s rights march in New York City saw 15,000 people advocating for better pay and voting rights.
IWD was then commemorated in the United States on February 28, 1909, with countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland joining the occasion in 1911.
Clara Zetkin suggested the event be taken global at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen in 1910.
The date wasn’t formalised until a wartime strike in 1917, when Russian women demanded “bread and peace”. Four days into the strike, the tsar was forced to abdicate, and the provisional government granted women emancipation.
The strike began on March 8, and this became the date that International Women’s Day is celebrated.
What is the theme this year for International Women’s Day?
The theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity.
“Equity isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have,” the IWD website reads. “A focus on gender equity needs to be part of every society’s DNA. And it’s critical to understand the difference between equity and equality.
“The IWD 2023 campaign theme drives worldwide understanding of why equal opportunities aren’t enough!”
What’s happening on the day and in London?
A virtual panel with UN leaders, climate activists, and celebrities will be hosted by the UN on Tuesday, March 8, followed by musical performances.
Other events will be held worldwide to mark the occasion.
You can see our definitive list of everything happening in London to mark International Women’s Day here.
At London’s Southbank Centre, the WOW – Women of the World – returns as an in-person event this weekend (March 10-12), being heralded as the “biggest, most comprehensive festival celebrating women, girls, and non-binary people”, in 2023.
The event brings together activists, musicians, comedians, and writers for three days of workshops and performances.
How can I get involved?
The IWD campaign is calling for people to use the hashtag #EmbraceEquity theme this year, and upload pictures giving themselves a hug, or upload some of the content from the site explaining this year’s theme.
The #IWD23 hashtag will also be used to unite conversations online.
You can show support by dressing in campaign colours purple, green, and white, to represent justice, dignity, hope, and purity.
Resources on the IWD site signpost users to educational materials and women’s charities that help towards the global support for gender equality.
Do we still need an International Women’s Day?
Gender parity is about a century away, according to the World Economic Forum, which means this campaign is as much for future generations as it is for people today.
On the IWD site, organisers said: “Around the world, people are having meaningful conversations about why equal opportunities aren’t enough, and why equal isn’t always fair.
“People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action. If we truly believe in, value, and embrace equity, then women are more likely to have access to what’s required to succeed.
“So on IWD, engage in those impactful conversations. Raise awareness. Help forge positive change for women.”