What Does This Day Mean?
International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the economic, cultural, social, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality and to fundraise for female-focused charities.
Purple, Green and White are the colours that symbolise International Women’s Day. Purple signifies justice and dignity; Green symbolises hope and White represents purity. The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK in 1908.
If you want to find out more head to the International Women’s Day official webpage which includes events, resources, speakers, employer information and their missions to help women.
International Women’s Day Theme for 2021
The 2021 campaign is the #ChooseToChallenge. Individually we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions, so it is up to us to choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality; and equally choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements.
The “strike the Choose to Challenge pose” encourages people to share on social media them pictured with their hand raised to show their support.
Historical Overview of Women’s Rights
Let’s start with the 1950’s and the equal pay of 1956 that stated some women, mostly in professions of teaching and civil service, should receive equal pay.
By 1958 The Life Peerages Act entitled women to sit in the House of Lords for the first time.
Jumping to 1967 we have the Abortion Act which decriminalises abortion in Britain on certain grounds. The Women’s Abortion and Contraception Campaign played a significant role in the passing of this act and in the same year, the contraceptive pill becomes available through Family Planning Clinics for ordinary people.
In 1968 the women at the Ford car factory in Dagenham strike over equal pay, almost crippling production at all Ford UK Plants. Their protest led directly to the passing of the Equal Pay Act. This made it illegal to pay women lower rates than men for doing the same job in the same workplace. The Act even included sexual discrimination rules in the workplace, but it wasn’t until 1975 that the Sex Discrimination Act came into full force.
Over 4,000 women took part in the first Women’s Liberation March in London in 1971 and the first women’s refugee was set up in London in 1972.
By 1983, Lady Mary Donaldson becomes the first woman Lord Mayor of London and by 1987, Diane Abbot becomes the first black female member of the Westminster Parliament.
In 1994, the UK started its first Take Your Daughter to Work Day which represented a push to get women into careers.
The House of Lords then delivered a historic judgement in the Shah and Islam case that women who feared gender persecution should be recognised as refugees in 1999.
2002, Parliament passes measures allowing lesbian and unmarried couples to adopt children and the first civil registrations of same-sex couples took place after a long campaign for the Civil Partnerships Act.
What Can You Do?
Open up the conversation! Think about what is still left to achieve for full equality between men and women. You can do this by encouraging people to watch women-focused movies or reading around the issues.
New TV Shows to celebrate International Women’s Day include:
- Moxie on Netflix. It tells the story of a teen girl who grows up tired and fed up of the sexist and toxic atmosphere at her high school and wants to make a change.
- First Ladies on Now TV and Sky Documentaries. This is a documentary series that profiles some of the former women of the White House, giving them a voice, such as Michelle Obama, Jacqueline Kennedy and Nancy Reagan.
Movies to inspire you on International Women’s Day include:
- Iron Lady. Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher, depicting how she aimed to break gender and class barriers to become the first female PM.
- Hidden Figures. This movie tells the story of three real-life black women who worked at NASA in the 1960s. Despite the racism and gender inequality they faced, the ladies continued to pursue their dreams in the white male-dominated workplace.
- Made in Dagenham. It is a dramatization of the strike at the Ford plant in Dagenham and the implications it had to equality in the workplace.
- Frozen. Whilst not an obvious choice, its one of Disney’s first films that gave women their own independence and empowerment. It embodies an important message of the potential for women to persist and that they don’t need to rely on a prince.
Books to motivate you on International Women’s Day include:
- Invisible Women by Caroline Perez. Perez takes on board huge amounts of research to attack the idea of men as default and the gender disparity that still exists by using specific data.
- Taking Up Space by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi. This book explores what it means to be a black girl within education, from the barriers of entry to the need to diversify university curriculums.
- Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders by Jane Robinson. History tends to remember the rebels of any social movement. But this book tackles the stories of quieter pioneers of gender equality who appeared in all areas of British working life. It considers 6 profession stories, doctors, clergy, academics, architects, engineers and lawyers, in which talented women had to fight against sexist attitudes.