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International Women’s Day 2022 theme, the history of IWD and why we celebrate

Lily Wakefield March 7, 2022
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International Women's Day rally in New York

International Women's Day rally in New York. (Getty/ Drew Angerer)

International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on 8 March, and 2022 is no different.

It’s intended as a date to mark the many social, economic and political achievements of women across the world.

International Women’s Day is a vital outlet that allows millions of people to stand up for women’s rights, female empowerment and gender equality, as well as honouring trailblazing women throughout history.

International Women’s Day 2022 theme

The official theme for IWD 2022 is “Break the Bias”, recognising the need for a world that is diverse and equal, and free of stereotypes and discrimination, a message that’s needed more than ever as gender-based violence, including violence against trans women, continues to be a threat to women around the globe.

Last year’s theme was #Choosetochallenge, which focused on the need to call out gender bias and inequality. Before that, the International Women’s Day 2020 theme was #EachforEqual, which recognised the actions we can take as individuals to challenge stereotypes and celebrate women’s achievements.

Why #BreakTheBias?

The International Women’s Day website reads:

“Imagine a gender equal world.

“A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.

“Together we can forge women’s equality.Collectively we can all #BreakTheBias.”

What can you do this International Women’s Day?

Firstly, simply become part of the conversation. Join with the hashtag #BreakTheBias on Twitter and have your say.

Next, you can strike a pose. Use the hashtag #IWD2022 or #BreakTheBias and post it alongside a picture of you on social media.

The pose for 2022 is arms crossed across the chest, to “show solidarity” and commit to “calling out gender bias, discrimination and stereotyping each time you see it”.

How can I get involved with International Women’s Day 2022?

You can donate, celebrate, collaborate, volunteer, sponsor and do so many more things.

One thing you can do is watch the purposeful IWD videos as discussion starters, or broadcast them at IWD events to educate, motivate, challenge, and inspire audiences. You can also develop and submit your own #BreakTheBias videos for potential inclusion.

Other direct action you can take is to fundraise for a women-focused charity. IWD provides an important opportunity to fundraise and call for donations to support the ever-important work of gender equality-focused charities.

The IWD charities of choice are currently the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and Catalyst, a global nonprofit working with companies around the world to build workplaces that work for women.

Another thing you can do is search the IWD Supplier Directory to source and support women-owned local businesses – from photographers and caterers to PR and more.

International Women’s Day history

The first National Woman’s Day, as it was originally named, was celebrated in the US on February 28, 1909.

The national date was formed to honour women who protested the year before. The protest occurred in New York City in 1908, led by a Ukrainian suffragist named Clara Lemlich. 15,000 female garment workers went on strike. They demanded better pay, shorter working hours and improved working conditions.

Members of the National Women's Liberation Movement, on an equal rights march from Speaker's Corner to No.10 Downing Street, to mark International Women's Day, London, 6th March 1971. One woman is carrying a placard reading 'Equal Pay Now'. On the right, a woman is holding a copy of the Trotskyist publication 'Red Mole'.
Members of the National Women’s Liberation Movement, on an equal rights march from Speaker’s Corner to No.10 Downing Street, to mark International Women’s Day, London, 6th March 1971. (Getty Images)

In 1910, National Woman’s Day became recognised as an international celebration after German women’s rights activist Clara Zetkin made the suggestion at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark.It was first celebrated as an official international day on March 19, 1911. Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark were amid the first countries to mark the day outside of the US. The day was supported by over one million people.

Fast forward in time, in 1975 during its International Women’s Year, the United Nations joined in on the annual celebration. They supported its aims of campaigning for women right’s worldwide and made it part of the organisation’s mission.

Dora Russell (left), former wife of social activist Earl Russell, and Mrs Sydney Silverman (centre), wife of Socialist MP for Nelson and Colne, are part of a delegation of women preparing to leave for a tour of Russia for International Women's Day, pictured at Kensington Air Station in London, August 10th 1951.

In 1996, the UN began adopting an annual theme for International Women’s Day.

The first ever theme for International Women’s Day was “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future.”

Why do we still mark International Women’s Day?

Sadly, not enough has changed for women since the inaugural IWD, with the gender pay gap, violence against women and ongoing inequality in job opportunities and healthcare still burning issues. In 2020, the UN reported that almost 90 per cent of people are prejudiced towards women globally.

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