By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinksi-Choo

International Women’s Day (IWD) is on March 8, 2016 and has been celebrated since 1911. IWD is a worldwide movement to “celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.” To participate in IWD, you should promote awareness, learn about the issues facing women worldwide, and take action to show your support of women around the globe. On this day, we recognize that the most marginalized group in the world comprises half of the population and that changes need to be made. Improving the lives of women is in everyone’s interest because everyone has women in their life. Women with better lives make for a better society. Here are seven ways you can take part in IWD through your thoughts and actions.

1. Ask the Question: Does Gender Inequality Exist?

Evidence for gender inequality lies in the fact there are women missing from the world. At birth, more girls are born than boys. This is a biological fact that humans cannot change. Additionally, women tend to live longer than men. However, worldwide there are more men than women. Approximately 100 million are “missing,” indicating that barriers in health, education, and economics are indeed yielding an unequal world—this we can change.[1] In the developed world, women can work, vote, and go to school, but inequality remains. For some, this means women are treated equally, but this is not true. The sentiment for equality does not ensure its actualization.

2. Pledge For Parity

The 2016 theme for IWD is "Pledge For Parity." It is a reminder to reflect on what needs to be done to improve equality and to make change happen. Women continue to contribute to social, economic, cultural, and political achievement. Gender equality means women can make change happen when they don’t have to face barriers to their independence, freedom, success, and happiness. Use your social media influence to talk about IWD using the hashtag #PledgeForParity.

3. Wear and Share the Color Purple

Purple is the color for IWD. In the early 1900s, the colors of the British suffragette group, Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), were purple, white, and green. Purple symbolizes justice and equality—two important tenets of gender equality—and has been adopted as the IWD color[2]. White symbolized purity, and green symbolized hope. You can participate in IWD by wearing purple and sharing #PaintItPurple on social media.

I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.
— ~Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

4. Be a Leader

Throughout history, women in positions of power were limited to a few individuals who inherited power due to lack of a male heir. Here are some facts and markers of progress: In 1960, Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first democratically female elected head of state as prime minister of Sri Lanka.[3] Afghanistan, Cuba, and 57 other countries have a higher percentage of elected women than the United States.[4] However despite these advances, only 20% of parliamentarians (elected representatives) in the world are women.[5] In democratic governments, it makes sense for women to have influence as representatives of half of the population, and this is an area where the world could improve by teaching girls that women are also leaders.

5. Have Compassion

IWD may often seem to celebrate “Great Women History,” but it also reminds us to think about our mothers, sisters, and friends. Surely there are incredible women in your life. The cumulative memory of our actions will someday characterize our place in history, so let us try to create a society remembered for its compassion. Our attitudes towards success, beauty, and proper conduct affect our treatment of women. A compassionate society would treat its women with respect. It would not objectify them. It would want them to be happier.

6. Advocate for Education

In countries like the United States, nothing prevents girls from going to school, but this is not the case everywhere. In many places, women’s inability to access education has a negative impact on their entire life. A powerful video by the non-profit, One Girl, illustrates the improvements a girl can make to her life when she can go to school. She can work, be independent, maintain her health, and provide a better future for her family. The divide between women’s educational opportunities around the globe is an important reason to stop and reflect on IWD.

7. Understanding Equality

A common misconception is that advocating for women’s rights means advocating against men. I think Cheris Kramarae put it best when she said, “feminism is the radical concept that women are people.” It’s no secret that women have not been treated equally in history. IWD is a celebration of the progress women have made to overcome these challenges and serves as a reminder that our world is not yet equal. It’s difficult to see how a world where half the population is happier, healthier, and more successful would be problematic.

IWD is a reminder to be cognizant of how our thoughts and actions impact women. Whatever gender you identify with, IWD is an important cause. You can make an impact by raising awareness, reflecting on your attitudes, and donating to organizations that deal with the issues previously discussed or improve other areas of women’s lives.

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” ~Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

[1] http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1990/dec/20/more-than-100-million-women-are-missing/

[2] http://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.asp#.VMWh_WR4oaU

[3] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/51492/Sirimavo-RD-Bandaranaike

[4] http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm

[5] http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures

How do you plan to celebrate International Women's Day? Share your stories with us and inspire others to do the same.

Natasha Derezinski-Choo is a student at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She started volunteering in high school and hasn’t stopped since! Natasha enjoys writing poetry, cooking, and traveling. Wherever she goes, she always wants to experience something new. 

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