The Virchow Foundation for Global Health joins the global community in raising its voice against gender-based discrimination and celebrating progress made, women’s achievements and their crucial contributions to health this International Women’s Day (IWD) 2023.
Women’s rights are human rights (1) and investing in women uplifts all people, communities and countries. Therefore, women’s and girls’ health and their equitable access to healthcare needs to be significantly higher prioritised. The inclusion of empowering all women and girls and the achievement of gender equality in the Agenda 2030 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals was one of the first steps to increase awareness and target actions (1). After significant achievements in the past decades, recent global health crises led to the fact that the world is not on track. This International Women’s Day hence not only serves as a celebration but is a call for heightened commitment from the global community – the time to invest in women and girls is now (1,2).
History of the International Women’s Day
The year 1848 marks the earliest recorded milestone when Americans Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott gathered some hundred people, protesting the exclusion from speaking at an anti-slavery convention (2,3). “A movement is born.” (3)
The first National Women’s Day was then held in 1908 in America by the Socialist Party. Already well over a century ago, the foundation of IWD was laid by the labour movements in the 20th century when 15,000 women marched in New York City for their rights and improvement of working conditions (4,5,6). They demanded shorter working hours, better pay and women’s suffrage (women’s suffrage is the right of women to lawfully exercise their right to vote in national and local elections (7)). Two years later, in 1910, the German communist activist and women’s rights’ advocate Clara Zetkin proposed to establish an international day dedicated to women during an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen (4). After the unanimous adoption of the participating women, it was celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland (5).
The world commemorating this day on March 8, dates to a strike during WWI when Russian women demanded “Bread and Peace” (4). The date was Sunday, February 23 on the Julian calendar (in use back then) which translates to the Gregorian calendar date of March 8 (4,5). The result of this four-day protest was the abdication of the Czar and women’s right to vote by the provisional government (5).
The United Nations began celebrating March 8 in the year 1975 during the International Women’s Year (3,7), the first theme a year later being “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future” (7). Two years after the start of the celebration, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace (3,7).
Important events happening in celebration of #IWD2023
The sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) will take place from March 6 to 17, 2023. Representatives of Member States, United Nations entities and Non-Governmental Organisations from all regions around the world are invited and will contribute to the session: >Link
(Re)watch the high-level event of the United Nations on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on March 8 2023 from 10:00-11:30 CET with, inter alia, António Guterres, Mathu Joyini, Sima Bahous and several more: >Link
All around the world, individuals are raising their voice and marching for women’s rights, demanding a bright, equitable, safe and rewarding future for women and girls globally. In Berlin, IWD is a public holiday with several important demonstrations and events. It is mostly referred to as “Feministischer Frauenkampftag” (9) to include all individuals beyond the binary of gender.
It is essential and crucial to further raise awareness and not be silent. Women’s rights are still neglected and abused in all areas of the world. The Virchow Foundation for Global Health is proud to have a strong, female global health leadership represented in their governing bodies who actively shape the Foundation’s vision and continue to raise their voice.
Learn more about Women’s Rights and their role in global health: Women in Global Health, Sustainable Development Goal 5 – Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, UN Women, Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), International Women’s Day, Amnesty International