International Women's Day: The UN says investing in women will benefit society as a whole

International Women's Day marks the ongoing pursuit of a more fair and equal society. For more than 100 years, 8 March has illuminated the pervasive inequalities women face while simultaneously celebrating all that women contribute to society. Every year, the United Nations chooses a theme to boost awareness of women worldwide. This year's slogan, "Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress," aims to raise awareness that progress for women benefits society as a whole.

Investing in women

"Gender equality remains the greatest human rights challenge. Investing in women is an absolute human rights imperative and a cornerstone for building inclusive societies," the United Nations said. While notable steps have been made in recent history, there are still staggering inequalities at play for women, such as the wage gap. As of 2022, the wage gap between genders was 12.7 per cent in the EU, according to Eurostat. In other words, women earned 12.7 per cent on average less per hour than men or 87.3 euros for every 100 euros men made. Women would need to work an extra 1.5 months to make up the difference.

Ongoing battles

Across all societies, women continue to face discrimination and are more likely to experience physical, psychological and economic violence within and outside the family. They also face prejudice in obtaining funds, subsidies and loans.

In addition, various forms of gender inequality remain largely under the radar among the general public. For example, in the medical and pharmaceutical world, the development of treatments and medication is all too often based on men, resulting in, among other things, more side effects, underdiagnosis, and prejudices the female population faces.

A number of acquired women's rights have come under increasing pressure recently. The best-known examples of this are the removal of the general right to abortion in the United States by the US Supreme Court and the exclusion of women from public life in Afghanistan since the Taliban returned to power. UNICEF reported on Friday that more than 230 million girls and women suffer from genital mutilation, another form of gender-based violence, which has risen by 15 per cent in six years.

©UN Women


"You are not only a feminist for yourself or your neighbour but for all women in the world"

To raise continued awareness for these and other issues, International Women's Day will be accompanied by numerous actions, demonstrations, and protests on Friday in dozens of countries in solidarity with women worldwide. Brussels expects around 15,000 participants in its annual march, while Antwerp, Ghent and Leuven will also host parades. The Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (ACV) and the General Belgian Trade Union (ABVV) are supporting the March 8 Collective's call for women to strike on Friday.

"Showing solidarity always has an effect," says Justine Begerem, the spokeswoman for the March 8 Collective. "Moreover, you are not only a feminist for yourself or your neighbour but for all women in the world, especially for those who want to flee a country where the government is guilty of oppression. When a large movement like ours tries to inform others about such a theme, we influence the way our society views those problems.

The first ever Women's Day took place on 28 February, 1909 in the United States. The following year, during a ​ conference in Copenhagen, a German feminist proposed the idea of holding an International Women's Day. It wasn't until 1978 that 8 March was declared the official International Women's Day by the United Nations.

©Photo Valeria Mongelli / Hans Lucas

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