International Women's Day

Learn about International Women's Day and its history

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8th. This internationally recognized day celebrates women’s accomplishments throughout history. In addition to honoring women’s achievements, IWD brings attention to the many injustices committed against women. It also calls for more progress toward gender equality.

International Women’s Day was first celebrated in the United States in 1909. European countries began to celebrate International Women’s Day in 1911. Today IWD is observed as an official holiday in many countries. People around the world now celebrate IWD by holding fundraisers, festivals, demonstrations, and conferences, as well as by giving awards. The International Women of Courage Award is presented by the United States Department of State. It honors international women who have promoted women’s rights in their own countries though courage, leadership, or resourcefulness.

In 1975 the United Nations (UN) celebrated IWD for the first time. Each year, the UN chooses a theme for IWD. Previous themes have focused on peace, women’s role in conflict resolution, fighting poverty, and empowerment. The 2013 theme is The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.

Classroom Activities

Activity 1 (Intermediate Learners)

Read the English Teaching Forum article, “Women in Sports” by Cynthia Malecki.

After reading, ask your students to write down the names of three of the female athletes in the article, the sports that these athletes play, and the world records which they set. Then, have students find information about the 2012 London Olympics to learn about the female athletes and the world records they set for the same sports in 2012. Ask students to report on which world records are the same and which world records were broken in 2012.

Activity 2 (Advanced Learners)

Read the Voice of America article “New UN Agency Focuses on Promoting Women’s Global Agenda.”

After reading, have your students work in groups to create their own organization to promote women’s equality in your country. What would the goals of the organization be? What aspect of equality would it target? For more in-depth study, students may also research different gender equity projects around the world to find out how these projects are creating gender equity and how they are supporting the mission of International Women’s Day.

Social Media Activities

Visit the American English at State Facebook page to participate in the conversation. Share your ideas on one of these topics:

  • Who are some courageous women that you know? What makes them courageous?
  • How are you celebrating International Women's Day? If you do not celebrate this holiday, are there similar holidays in your country?
Post your answers on American English Facebook More Content Spotlights