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International Women’s Day: Ways to celebrate at the University of Birmingham

If you don’t know or care much about International Women’s Day, then this may change your mind

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. International women day is celebrated worldwide, it is dedicated to the celebration of the progress and achievements of women around the world, socially, economically and culturally. This day also aims to raise awareness about the ongoing, global struggles that many women still face, placing emphasis on the fact there is still work to be done and improvements to be made for women.

Celebrating International Women’s Day in Brum and how everyone can get involved (it’s not just for women)

This year, the theme for the global campaign is #EmbraceEquity. This is placing great emphasis on the need for equity, to achieve equality. The aim is to raise questions and start conversations about why equal opportunities are not enough when people start from different places.

The official IWD website explains this: “To truly embrace equity, means to deeply believe, value, and seek out difference as a necessary and positive element of life. To embrace equity means to understand the journey required to achieve women’s equality.”

To summarise the difference between the two terms, equality occurs when everyone is given the same, whether that is resources or opportunities. Equity acknowledges that not everyone starts off in the same position, therefore, some may need extra resources and opportunities to reach the same outcome.

Some helpful analogies for understanding this can be found here, and some insightful explanations can be found here.

Whilst there is no one way to celebrate International Women’s Day, you can try to get involved in ways that promote diversity and inclusion. You could donate to a female-focused charity of your choice to support the bodies that are celebrating and pushing for action. Some suggestions could be found here.

Alternatively, you could attend an event or activity that is being held in solidarity with the cause of promoting gender equality and raising awareness.

The University of Birmingham is holding various events, workshops, and talks throughout the month of March which could be worth going to.

You could also consider attending one of these events happening in Birmingham, as a way to connect with the wider community regarding these issues. Other opportunities can be found here.

You could wear the colours of International Women’s Day: purple, green and white. They originated in the UK in 1908 from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). If anyone asks you what they represent, then you can inform them that purple symbolises justice, dignity, and loyalty to the cause, green is associated with hope and white signifies purity (although this might be a slightly controversial one).

You could even get creative and promote it on social media and take part in the #EmbraceEquity photo challenge.

If you would like to take more of a personal approach, you could simply take some time to learn more about the event and its historical and social significance. Furthermore, you can read up on what action the government is taking in support of the movement.


Founded almost a hundred years ago, the event emerged from two main issues including the fight for women’s franchises and for working class-women to form trade unions. In February 1908, a huge disruption was created in New York by the strikes and marches that involved thousands of women. These strikes continued for over a year, as women protested their working conditions, and fought for equal pay and the right to vote.

To honour the anniversary of the strikes, the US declared its first National Women’s Day on the 28th of February 1909, a tradition that quickly spread throughout Europe. By 1975, the United Nations recognised March 8th as International Women’s Day, which is now celebrated as a national holiday in many parts of the world from Afghanistan and Cambodia to Ukraine and Uganda.

You can read more about the historical development of International Women’s Day here and here.

Why it is important

Rooted in the women’s rights movement, the event brings attention to the historical progress made by women. It highlights some of the historical challenges that women have faced (and are still facing), including gender equality, reproductive rights, and gender-based violence. For some, these rights are taken for granted, without the recognition that being (able to vote) has not always been an option for women.

Furthermore, it is an opportunity for women to recognise and flag that there are still existing struggles for gender equality. These challenges are present in education, employment, healthcare, and politics. This event can provide women with the space to share their experiences and build a stronger community.

This also calls for gender parity, where the causes of gender inequality are explicitly addressed and challenged. Despite involving some uncomfortable conversations, this is essential for creating a fairer society in the long term. If you’re interested in learning more, here is a comprehensive overview of the distinction between gender parity and gender equity.

International Women’s Day is not just about women. The campaign is designed to challenge stereotypes and promote diversity and inclusivity for everyone. Women are not the only group subject to discrimination, stereotypes, and inequality, thus making it an event where various groups can feel supported. Overall gender equality is a human rights issue that affects everyone.

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