This month we celebrate International Women’s Day! The history of this observance began in the early twentieth century, when National Women’s Day was initially founded in the United States. However, this global movement couldn’t be contained by one country’s borders. As women continued to fight for better work conditions and suffrage around the world, it became more common to hold days at the local and national levels to recognize heroines everywhere. Eventually, the 1910 International Conference of Working Women proposed expanding it globally, and soon after, the very first International Women’s Day was honored on March 19, 1911. The observance wasn’t given a set date, however, until 1917, when March 8 was selected to mark the day that women in Russia gained the right to vote. We still honor International Women’s Day on this date today.
Now, more than 100 years later, women, girls and female-identifying persons around the world are still denied the rights and liberties that men and boys have. That brings us to this year’s observance, March 8, 2021, when we will once again honor the progress that has been made – and recognize how much further we have yet to go.
Striving for gender equality
Our Charity Alliance partner CARE works every day to advocate for women and girls to overcome gender-based obstacles and rise out of poverty. Reaching over 100 countries and 90 million people around the world, the charity knows that by helping women and girls achieve equality, it’s striving toward its mission to save lives, defeat poverty and achieve social justice. CARE does this by implementing on-the-ground programs, supporting women everywhere, and promoting policy reform, ensuring U.S. foreign aid is both inclusive of and effective for women.
CARE works for gender equality and against gender-based violence because it knows that by ensuring girls their education and freedom, the charity is promising a better future for women and the marginalized communities in which they live. Every year, CARE recognizes International Women’s Day by hosting events and further amplifying its call to take action and advocate for equality. This year specifically, CARE wants to bring attention to improving COVID-19 and emergency response to better serve and protect women, with “I’m Every Woman” as their theme and call to action,
The effect of COVID-19 on women and girls
It was in the early weeks of March 2020 that our lives were interrupted by COVID-19 in the U.S. The world has changed immensely since the last time we celebrated International Women’s Day. Now, on March 8, 2021, we will observe the day with fewer in-person events, new perspectives and an even bigger need for action, as women around the world face new and worsened challenges as a result of COVID-19.
Over the last year, the pandemic magnified inequality, and women and girls in particular are taking the brunt of the impact.
- With kids out of school and a rise in unemployment, many women have taken on more at-home childcare responsibilities, adding to their workload or causing them to leave their professions.
- Women are also at higher risk of domestic violence when they are kept at home in unsafe households and discouraged from leaving to seek refuge.
- Healthcare services that were available for women’s reproductive health and child health have been reduced as resources were redirected to treat COVID-19 patients and clinics closed or reduced hours.
However, the biggest danger lies in our future. According to a CARE Report from October 2020, adolescent girls are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and neglected in response efforts. They face increased risks of being exposed to violence, forced into early marriage or kept out of school when their families lose income.
Girls receive more than an education at school. They are given access to protection, support programs and opportunities to learn life skills – resources that help them avoid dangerous marriages and build a future for themselves. But as long as schools are closed, girls are cut off from this support and at great risk: It is predicted that as many as 13 million more child marriages could occur before 2030 because of COVID-19.
When speaking on adolescent girls and the pandemic, Debbie Landis, the senior gender in emergencies policy specialist at CARE, said, “If left unaddressed, these issues have huge implication, not only for the girls themselves but also for the future, and for the next generation of society – so this is a crucial time.”
That is why CARE is dedicated to stopping the spread and contributing to fair vaccine distribution – so that the world can open up again, and women and girls can resume their pursuit of education, careers, health care and protection from abuse. The charity’s response to the crisis so far has included hygiene supplies, meals, financial support and measures for gender-based violence in 69 of the countries that it reaches.
Now, CARE has a two-year initiative for implementing vaccine delivery. This plan includes women at the forefront of its efforts by making sure its direct impact reaches mostly women, and by standing with the grassroots health workers, like midwives and hygiene workers, that are often overlooked.
Celebrate International Women’s Day by raising your voice
The best way to honor International Women’s Day is by using your voice to show support for a better future and advocating for gender equality. CARE and the members of our Charity Alliance that support women and girls have resources and opportunities for you to make the most out of this year’s observance. Here are some of the ways that you can get involved and support the charity’s efforts toward global gender equality.
- Join CARE for their upcoming speakers series.
Sign up for four upcoming events as part of CARE’s #ImEveryWoman speaker series in honor of International Women’s Day. Join them on March 10, 17, 24 and 31 for topics on being a leader, fighter, changemaker – and a woman. Register now!
- Participate in International Women’s Day with CARE.
Show your support for this important observance through CARE with their theme and call to action, “I am every woman.” Their website has lots of information, ways to get involved and more for you, your friends, family and coworkers to stand up for every woman. Join them on social media using #ImEveryWoman.
- Register for CARE’s Virtual Day of Action.
Do you want to advocate for policies and funding that will help protect women and girls? The CARE Action staff is hosting regional online events throughout the week of International Women’s Day to help you schedule advocacy calls with members of the U.S. Congress in your district. Specifically, you can help push forward the Safe from the Start Act, which aims to direct foreign assistance to the global prevention of gender-based violence and empowerment of survivors.
- Keep women and girls safe from COVID-19 by sending an email to your elected officials.
Another way to reach government leaders is via email. CARE has made it even easier for you to reach out to Congress and convey the urgency of COVID-19 response in marginalized communities to include and prioritize safety for girls and women by providing the resources you need to reach out through email.
- Send a CARE Package to survivors of gender-based violence.
Help send CARE Packages to survivors of gender-based violence, providing life-saving supplies, reproductive health services, prevention tools and shelter in the communities that CARE serves. You can even send a CARE Package that provides access to the COVID-19 vaccine as part of the charity’s initiative to distribute it fairly and efficiently. CARE Packages can be given individually, or you and your colleagues can provide critical support to women and girls around the world by setting up an employee giving page for your company to help fund CARE Packages.
- Join the CARE Women’s Network.
This growing network brings together women in their community to support CARE’s mission. It specifically works to educate, advocate and raise awareness for the empowerment of women and girls living in poverty. See if there is a chapter in your area to become a member.
- Give to support CARE and other charities making a difference for women and girls.
Finally, a simple donation to a trusted charity can make a world of difference. CARE has the knowledge, tools and experience to ensure your gift is used to effectively reach girls and women worldwide. Your generosity will change their lives – and help change the world.
International Women’s Day was founded on the principle that women deserve equal rights. It is still observed every year with the purpose to celebrate achievements, raise awareness, fundraise and lobby for gender equality.
Since its start more than a century ago, so much progress has been made for women — like achieving the rights to vote and hold public leadership positions. However, women are still denied basic human rights, deal with suppression, lack representation, are presented fewer opportunities compared to male counterparts. This is in addition to even greater threats that minority women or women in rural or impoverished communities work to surmount daily around the world.
There is more to be done to empower women and girls around the world, so as we celebrate all we’ve achieved, take time this March 8 to reflect. Learn about women in history, take action and inspire continued advancement so we can see all the progress we’ve made next March 8.