International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. IWD is also a day for raising awareness about women’s equality and lobbying for gender parity.
International Women’s Day is marked on March 8th every year. The first IWD was in 1911, making this year the 110th anniversary of this worldwide celebration. Colloquially, IWD is also known as World Women’s Day or simply Women’s Day.
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|Did you know that women send the same amount home to their families as men, despite earning 20% less on average?|
Notable women in world history
To mark IWD on March 8th, we’re featuring eight remarkable women from eight countries that Azimo customers send money to. Discover more about these pioneering, unsung heroes, including their significant accomplishments and long-lasting legacies.
Malala Yousafzai – Pakistan (1997 – present)
Malala is a great advocate of education, particularly in parts of the world where girls cannot even go to school. She started blogging about life in Pakistan for the BBC at the age of 11. When she started writing about women’s rights, she began to receive death threats.
At the age of 15, she was shot in the head by a lone gunman but fortunately survived the attack. In 2014, she became the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate, winning the Nobel Peace Prize alongside Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi. She continues to be a champion for girls’ rights to education while running her charity, the Malala Fund.
Begum Rokeya – Bangladesh (1880 – 1932)
A writer, educator and political activist, Begum Rokeya was a pioneer of women’s liberation in South Asia. Rokeya believed education to be the central precondition of women’s freedom, establishing the first school aimed primarily at Muslim girls in Kolkata. Legend has it that she went from house to house persuading the parents to send their girls to her school.
Until her death, she ran the school despite facing hostile criticism and social obstacles. In 1916, she founded the Muslim Women’s Association, further fighting for women’s education and employment. Bangladesh observes Rokeya Day on December 9th every year to commemorate her works and legacy. On that day, the Bangladesh government awards the ‘Begum Rokeya Padak’, a national honour, to individual women for exceptional achievements.
Angela Salazar – Colombia (1954 – 2020)
Angela Salazar was an activist and defender of women’s rights in Colombia. Born in the Afro-Colombian stronghold of Chocó, Salazar lived most of her life in Apartadó, Antioquia. Salazar began her career as an advocate for literacy among plantation workers, later focusing on fighting for equal rights for black people and women.
Much of Salazar’s work as an activist highlighted that Colombian national history neglected the critical input of minority groups, including women, to the country’s culture in its narrative. During her lifetime, she held several prestigious positions and founded various organisations such as Casa de la Mujer and the Association of Women of Apartadó.
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Josefa Llanes Escoda – The Philippines (1898 – 1945)
Josefa Llanes Escoda was the founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines. Every year, the scouts pay tribute to their founder with acts of service, and a Girl Scout Week celebration coinciding with her birthday. A teacher, social worker and activist, she was also a staunch advocate for women’s suffrage, fighting for women’s right to vote in the Philippines.
In 2018, she was memorialised with a Google doodle on what would have been her 120th birthday. The illustration is said to be “a close portrayal of how Escoda led young Filipinas towards preparing for their responsibilities to the nation and to the world community.”
Marta Vieira da Silva – Brazil (1986 – present)
Marta Vieira da Silva, known as Marta, is an icon of football in South America. Having grown up in one of the poorest parts of Brazil, she learnt to play football with boys on the beach. As an underprivileged child, she had to resort to making a football out of plastic bags tied together, though this clearly didn’t slow her down, as nowadays she is considered as one of the greatest female football players of all time.
Her phenomenal technique, speed and goal-scoring abilities have led many Brazilians to label Marta as ‘the female Pele’, and she is often compared to other distinguished men in the game. In 2010, Marta was named a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women and Girls in Sport.
Salomé Ureña – Dominican Republic (1850 – 1897)
Salomé Ureña was one of the most prominent poets of the 19th Century. Her father introduced her to French and Spanish writers, and she started writing at age 15, with her first poem published two years later. Ureña also fought for women to receive the same rights as men.
In 1881, she and her husband opened the Instituto de Señoritas, a school for women in the Dominican Republic. Within five years, the first six female teachers had graduated from the institute. She was the mother of the educator and literary critic Camila Henríquez Ureña; the writer, teacher, and diplomat Max Henríquez Ureña; and the writer, philosopher, and educator Pedro Henríquez Ureña.
Daria Harjevschi – Moldova (1862 – 1934)
Daria Harjevschi was a librarian and cultural artist from Bessarabia who headed the National Library of the Republic of Moldova for 40 years, being the youngest director in its history. She is best remembered for her contributions to improving the library’s catalogues by means of systematic alphabetic sorting and for introducing new library services catering for children in Moldova.
Harjevschi’s other achievements include reader’s assistance programs, encouraging poor children’s access to libraries and allowing feedback on public library services.
Kanitha Wichiencharoen – Thailand (1922 – 2002)
Kanitha Wichiencharoen was a Thai lawyer and women’s rights advocate. She is considered the pioneer of women’s advocacy in the country. Among her various accomplishments, she founded The Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women. She also established the first emergency shelter for women and children in distress and the first college in Southeast Asia to train women as Buddhist nuns.
After studying law at Thammasat University, she worked for two years as a counsellor for women who had suffered abuse and discrimination before moving to the United States to study international law. Upon returning to Thailand, Wichiencharoen began her career at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the 1960s, Wichiencharoen started advocating passionately for women’s rights.
Later in life, she was selected as president of the International Women’s Association of Thailand and would go on to open various associations, including the Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW), the Women’s Education and Training Centre and the Gender and Development Research Institute.
Facts about IWD
Over a century old, there are several interesting historical facts about International Women’s Day. Get inspired by reading more about IWD below.
- Every IWD has a theme
Whereas last year’s theme was #EachforEqual, the theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge, which highlights the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions in the interest of creating a more inclusive and gender-equal world.
- IWD may have started in 1909
According to the United Nations (UN), IWD actually started in America in 1909, not in 1911. Protestors were said to have taken to the streets to honour garment workers who had objected against inhumane working conditions the year before. It was called National Women’s Day, and it took place on February 28th.
- 1975 was called ‘International Women’s Year’
The UN named 1975 ‘International Women’s Year’ and since then have sponsored IWD. That year, around 90% of women took a ‘day off’ to demonstrate the importance of their contribution to the working world.
- IWD is a national holiday in some countries
The day is an official national holiday in many countries around the world. In China, many women are granted half a day off from work. Russia celebrates the day with team lunches, gifts and celebration days in public schools.
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*Infographic data source: UN Women – Migrant Women and Remittances