International Women’s Day 2021: Everything you need to know

A smiling woman in focus, with a group of smiling women behind her
On International Women's Day we're celebrating women like Jeanne, who participated in Concern's Graduation Programme in Burundi. Photo: Abbie-Trayler Smith / Concern Worldwide

What is it, when is it and how can you get involved? Here’s a handy guide to International Women’s Day 2021.

What is it?

International Women's Day takes place every year on 8 March. It’s a global day that celebrates and raises awareness of women’s achievements, and calls to accelerate women's equality. This is particularly important as, despite progress, the World Economic Forum predicts that gender parity will still not be attained in our lifetimes.

The day is supported around the world by industry, governments, educational institutions, community groups, professional associations, women's networks, charities, the media and more.

International Women's Day rally image in black and white
International Women's Day rallies have taken place around the world for decades.
International Women's Day rally
International Women's Day rallies have taken place around the world for decades.

It’s been observed for over a century now, since the very first International Women’s Day gathering in 1911. Honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March, more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.

Since then, the world has witnessed a significant change and shift in attitude in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. International Women’s Day is now an official holiday in many countries and traditions around the world include men honouring their mothers, wives, girlfriends and colleagues with flowers and small gifts, and children giving small presents to their mothers and grandmothers.

What’s this year’s theme?

This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. To put it simply, we can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. If every person does this, we can collectively push for change and help to create an inclusive world.

How can you get involved?

International Women's Day is not owned by a country, group or organisation – it belongs to everyone, everywhere. It’s up to each of us to do what we can to make a positive difference. Here are some ideas:

  1. Raise your hand assertively and strike the #ChooseToChallenge pose to show solidarity and support and your picture across social media using the hashtags #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021
  2. Take part in events worldwide, including IWD Flagship Events, or host and promote your own IWD event.
  3. Watch one of these inspirational films about the fight for women’s equality
  4. Sign up to get involved with our new initiative, Women of Concern, a global community connecting people in the UK with change-making women from across the world.
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