International Women’s Day worldwide
On Wednesday 8 March we celebrated International Women’s Day. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committed to political participation by women, the economic empowerment of women, combating violence against women and the implementation of UNSC resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. And that is much needed. Read how International Women’s Day is being observed worldwide and how our missions are marking the occasion.
On 8 March every year, various demonstrations are held throughout the country, joined by tens of thousands of people. The biggest protest march always takes place in Buenos Aires, with the National Congress at its epicentre. Feminist groups, political parties, social organisations, educational institutions, trade unions, the world of arts and culture, and women of all ages come together to demand greater equality and condemn gender-based violence. Women across the country also stop work wherever possible on 8 March in order to highlight the huge amount of invisible work that women do.
Argentina has a powerful feminist movement. Within the general struggle for women’s rights, there are also groups campaigning on specific issues. For example, there is a group known as 'Ni Una Menos' (Not One Less) committed to combating femicide ‒ the intentional killing of women because they are women. For a long time, there was also a large movement involving a wide range of organisations campaigning for abortion rights, which eventually resulted in the introduction of an abortion law in December 2020.
Despite the focus on women’s rights in policy development and the ambitious legislative framework, many problems remain, such as intimate partner violence and femicide, overrepresentation of women in the poorest sections of the population and a wage gap.
This year, various activities are being organised by the Dutch embassy to initiate discussions with other countries about women’s rights and gender equality. Ambassadors from different countries that have or are developing a feminist foreign policy will be engaging in dialogue. Women leaders in the agricultural, logistics and water management sectors will also meet for discussions.
Before the war in Ukraine, all kinds of activities and events used to take place on International Women’s Day. Conferences, presentations and public gatherings were held to promote gender equality, equal opportunities, women’s rights and other related issues. Many Ukrainians buy flowers, sweets and other gifts on International Women’s Day for their colleagues, friends, partners or relatives or other important women in their lives.
In 2020, our embassy colleagues and the ambassador took part in the annual Women’s March, which at the time was focused on the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention. The Convention was ratified by President Zelenskyy in June 2022. The founder of the Women’s March and winner of the embassy’s 2022 Human Rights Tulip, Olena Shevchenko, was recently named one of TIME Magazine’s ‘Women of the Year 2023’.
This year, a number of women are being invited to the ambassador’s residence for an informal meeting. The women are from the agricultural sector, civil society organisations, the business community and the public sector. Together, we will reflect on what the past year of war has meant for the position of women: has the role of women changed? How has the role of men changed? Do we see a change in the position of women in, for example, the army, in government, the economy and also the family? This year, 8 March is once again not a day for celebration, but for reflection on the impact the war has had on women and on how to carry on promoting women’s rights even in times of war and, later, reconstruction.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited Italy and presented Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni with a bouquet of mimosas. At the presentation, Mr Rutte talked about the importance of female leadership and women’s development.
In accordance with tradition, Italian women receive bunches of small, yellow mimosas on 8 March. The mimosa was chosen as the symbol for International Women’s Day shortly after the Second World War. At the time, the Unione donne italiane (Union of Italian Women) was looking for a flower that could be used to mark the occasion. The mimosa was chosen because it was one of the few flowers that normally bloom in March; it was also easy to find and was relatively cheap.
Although the mimosa tradition started life as a feminist and left-wing symbol, it has since lost its political significance and has become a widespread practice. It is customary for women to give each other mimosas as a sign of female solidarity. But men also give sprigs of mimosa to women as a token of respect and appreciation for the role of women in society. Because Italy is a food-focused country, you will also find cakes and pastas made in vibrant yellow colours to resemble the flower.
Over the past few decades, Italy has seen major improvements in relation to gender equality, but there is still a long way to go. According to ISTAT, the Italian National Institute of Statistics, the employment to population ratio for women in 2022 was 51.3% (compared to 69.6% for men). This year, however, it is the first International Women’s Day in history on which both the head of government, Giorgia Meloni, and the leader of the opposition, Elly Schlein, are women.
Not all countries automatically see 8 March, International Women’s Day, as a day of celebration. Lithuania was occupied by the USSR from 1944 to 1990/91 and it was during this time that commemorative days and public holidays, such as 8 March, were introduced as well as the kolkhozy (collective farms) and cooperatives. This has meant that the day remains inextricably linked to this tragic period of occupation in Lithuania’s history. In Lithuania, by March 8, there is an image of domestic violence against women, often but not only associated with alcohol abuse.
Since regaining its independence, Lithuania has made great progress. The country already had a woman president, and the current prime minister and the speaker of the Seimas are both women. Businesses, universities and the media are also seeing more women in leadership roles, although there is still a world to be won in terms of equal pay.
Lithuania may not observe 8 March as an official day of celebration, but that does not mean that the day is not acknowledged. By the media and NGOs as well as the government. And many men still buy flowers for their wives on the day. The day also provides an opportunity to initiate and engage in much-needed discussions. At work, at home, at school, in universities and among friends. In a nutshell, you could say that International Women’s Day proves its worth year after year.
Since 2017, 270 Dutch military personnel have been taking part in the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Lithuania. International Women’s Day provides an ideal opportunity to celebrate and endorse the valuable female expertise within the military organisation. In 2022, the embassy organised a meeting with all female eFP personnel to talk about the specific challenges they faced due to the fact that they are women in a military system and on deployment.
This year, the embassy will post a photograph on social media showing all the female military personnel in the current Dutch contingent of eFP in Lithuania.
8 March is a special day for the people of Armenia, because it is celebrated as International Women's Day. It is a day on which women and girls are honoured and men and boys give women and girls flowers and other gifts. It is a delightful gesture that reflects the Armenian people’s love and appreciation for the women in their lives.
It is also a day on which various cultural events take place, including concerts and exhibitions. The day reminds us of the important role that women play in our lives and is a celebration of their strength, resilience and beauty.
On International Women’s Day on 8 March 1979, a women’s march took place in Tehran, Iran. The march was originally intended as a celebration of International Women’s Day, but it turned into mass protests against the changes to women’s rights implemented during the Iranian revolution, particularly the introduction of the obligatory hijab (head covering) which had been announced the previous day. The protests lasted six days, from 8 to 14 March 1979, and thousands of women took part.
Women’s rights are receiving considerable attention in Iran, including participation and employment. This year, women’s rights are cast in a different light following the events of recent months. After the death of 22-year-old student Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022, thousands of Iranians took to the streets. Men and women are demonstrating for greater freedom and equal rights and also to address the oppression faced by Iranian women. Consequently, everything in Iran is being closely scrutinised and the opportunities for the international community to observe International Women’s Day are limited. To draw attention to and improve women’s rights in Iran, the embassies of a number of EU countries, including the Netherlands, have teamed up to make a video and are sharing it on social media.
On the eve of International Women’s Day, the European Union adopted a package of sanctions against the perpetrators of sexual violence and large-scale violations of women’s rights. This means that people and entities guilty of sexual violence and violating women’s rights will be held to account and placed on a sanctions list. The package also affects Iran, with the sanctioning of the women’s prison in Qarchak. The sanctions package is a new way to raise awareness of sexual violence and to send a global message that such behaviour is unacceptable.