International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, marks the achievements and progress of women worldwide while also underscoring the need for continued action and policy change toward gender equity. Celebrated in different forms for over 100 years and officially recognized by the United Nations since 1977, International Women’s Day asserts that the struggle for women’s equality is a global mission and highlights the work left to do to continue the progress we’ve made over time worldwide.
International Women’s Day emerged from the tireless work of women’s labor movements, drawing its origins from working women’s labor and anti-war organizing in the United States, Europe, and Russia. The date of March 8th became solidified as the yearly date to celebrate International Women’s Day when Russian women went on a wartime strike in 1917, where they demanded bread, peace, and the right to vote. The United Nations began marking the day in 1975, and a General Assembly resolution two years later made it official. In the decades since, the U.N. has emphasized the global importance of women’s rights, creating landmark protections through the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the Sustainable Development Goals. Today, International Women’s Day commemorates the historic milestones women fought for to pave a better future for worldwide.
Women’s political participation is vital to an inclusive and progressive future which can help advance women’s equality throughout the economy and society. Evidence from U.N. reports show that women’s political leadership enhances political collaboration even in the most hostile political environments.
As we commemorate the progress of women’s global labor efforts, we must note the value that a gender lens provides to our international outlook. A gender lens is critical to evaluating the role of women in the economy accurately. For instance, reproductive labor—a term used to describe unpaid activities such as cooking, washing clothes, reproduction, and childrearing—is entirely unaccounted for in most economic analyses. Yet this labor, primarily performed by women, is fundamental to the functioning of the global economy.
IWPR’s economist Martha Susanna Jaimes weighs in on this subject “It is important to think of how shifts in the geopolitical balance such as political unrest and migration impact reproductive labor and migrant women’s unpaid labor and how it flies under the radar. It is important to shine a light on these invisible groups who are not accounted for in the economy.”
As we celebrate International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we must realize that politics, economics, and society are deeply intertwined and are built upon ideas that often undervalue and obscure women’s work. Analysis of the political economy must include and factor in women’s experiences to initiate global and social change. The U.N. recognizes gender equality as a key to global economic progress in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. This goal includes adopting and strengthening sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels. Coined in the late 1830s by Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Grimke Weld, “women’s rights are human rights.” Close to 200 years later, the quest continues.