A woman dressed as the statue of liberty holds a flame aloft.

International Women’s Day 2017 Demands Bold Change For Global Equality

The 106th International Women’s Day has been marked by events across the world calling for bold change in the push for gender equality. Women and men echoed the United Nation’s (UN) call to “Step It Up for Gender Equality” on March 8, with protests seen from Moscow to Melbourne.

Each International Women’s Day carries a unique theme, attempting to motivate action or draw attention to a particular gender equality issue. In 2016, the theme was Pledge for Parity, which aimed to underscore, among other things, “the importance of recognising universal education and advocacy of women”, according to Inquisitr writer, Kamran Shah.

The popular theme of International Women’s Day 2017 was “Be Bold For Change.” Trending across the international community as the hashtag #BeBoldForChange, this phrase linked the positive efforts of organizations, women, and men around the world on March 8 and beyond. On the day, boldness manifested itself most clearly in the numerous protests and marches for gender equality witnessed in cities around the globe.

A woman protests gender inequality, holding a banner reading "She the People"
[Image by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images]

The UN’s own theme for International Women’s Day 2017 was “women in the changing world of work”.

This theme focused attention on how “the world of work is changing” to include both new opportunities in the form of “globalization [and the] technological and digital revolution” and also new insecurities including the increasingly casual labor force and numerous environmental impacts on work. The UN called for these issues to be addressed “in the context of women’s economic empowerment”.

This continued the UN’s drive to fulfill the “Planet 50-50 by 2030” pledge, agreed through wide-ranging commitments made by 93 UN member states since 2015.

But what is the current situation with gender equality, and will we really have gender equality on International Women’s Day 2030?

Hillary Clinton gave gender a high-profile platform in her bid to become the first female president of the United States last year after a succession of 44 men in office. After losing out to Donald Trump, she stated on her own Twitter feed that she had been “unable to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling.”

Clinton’s is far from the only glass ceiling women face in today’s world, nor perhaps is it even the most vital to “shatter.” Pick any gender equality issue and you’ll by awash with data supporting the arguments made by protesters on International Women’s Day.

Take the international gender pay gap as one such issue. Globally, men are paid 24 percent more than women on average, according to the UN. In the UK, the gender pay gap (in 2016 it was 14 percent) translates into women working the final 51 days of the year unpaid, according to The Guardian.

Women in Iceland, who earn on average 14-18 percent less than their male counterparts, staged a simple protest against pay inequality on October 24, 2016. Thousands left work and took to the streets at 2:38 p.m., the time after which “they were essentially working without pay“, according to The Independent.

Beyond the statistics, deeply rooted cultural attitudes and stereotypes are often the hardest problems to overcome. Even in western societies, where gender equality has been a prominent public debate for decades, enthusiasm for achieving gender equality is still far from universal.

A recent study by Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins showed equality was lacking in “three key areas…gender economic security, leadership positions and violence against women.” She also commented that “one of the most surprising and concerning findings was just how prevalent the opposition to advancing gender equality is,” according to a report in The Guardian.

With much still to be done to achieve 2016’s Pledge for Parity, just how did the world demand the bold change that is required on International Women’s Day 2017?

A woman looks ahead as she took part in a IWF17 protest.
[Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]

Protest was the main theme of “one of the most highly charged and political International Women’s Days in living memory,” according to The Guardian. Much centered around the first global International Women’s Strike, where women took coordinated industrial action and marched to show the reality of “A Day Without Women.”

From Lebanon to Tokyo, London to Manila, women protested the issues most important to them and their communities. Themes ranged from pay inequality in the U.S. and Australia to high rates of “femicide” across South America. All were united by a sense of “global solidarity.

Yet despite the extraordinary scenes around the world, whether International Women’s Day 2017 manages to inspire the bold change needed to achieve genuine equality, only time will tell.

[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]