Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), when around the world we celebrate the achievements made by women in politics, art, culture, economics, sports, entertainment, medicine, social services, leadership, education — every aspect of our daily lives, which women of all races, religions, and sexual identities influence, enhance, and impact.
This year, we have much to celebrate. Last year at this time, there were no women candidates left in the 2020 presidential race. This year, we have Kamala Harris as our Vice President, and an administration that so far has lived up to its promise of promoting and protecting equal rights for women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community.
But still we face challenges, which underscore the fact we continue to need an IWD in the first place. We continue to face a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted women’s earning power, and which has seen the infection rates in people of color soar compared to those of their white counterparts. Trends of violence against trans women of color continue to rise. Lawmakers across the country are proposing bills to limit voting rights, which primarily target persons of color, and pushing through legislation at the state levels to ban trans women and girls from playing on sport teams that accord to their gender identity.
At the heart of International Women’s Day is the need not to signal out one particular day but rather to recognize the ongoing need to fight for, and promote, equality for all human beings. The ongoing challenges are at the heart of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, Choose to Challenge. The theme encourages people from around the world to stand up for justice, and against inequality when they see it happening.
The foundation of IWD was built on challenging the status quo. The commemoration began in 1910 when Clara Zetkin — a German Social Democratic leader — proposed that a day be set aside from women across the globe to celebrate their achievements and push their demands for equality and societal change. The first official IWD was held the following year. Women not only clamored for the right to vote in many countries, but also for the right to work, hold public office, and to be free from discrimination.
Over a century later we’re still making these demands. Voting rights are now subject to legislation; women, disproportionate to men, are being asked to choose between working and caretaking during the pandemic; and according to a report by the United Nations, women are heads of states in only 22 countries, while less than 25% of parliamentarians are women.
The challenges are real, and the fight for our equality continues. We need to remember, too, that the fight isn’t limited to one day, but requires a very real and concerted effort every day. To every woman, celebrate you, admire you, uplift you, respect you, and love you all today and every day.
For a list of IWD 2021 events, visit the IWD website.