How International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world

Click to play video: 'International Women’s Day marches around the world'
International Women’s Day marches around the world
For International Women’s Day and people across the world took to the streets to advocate for equal rights. (March 8, 2018) – Mar 8, 2018

For more than a century, women around the globe have been fighting for their rights on March 8, otherwise known as International Women’s Day.

While the date has been hallmarked as a time to honour women’s achievements in the political, economic, and cultural sphere, it also serves as a reminder that women around the world still have a long way to go when it comes to obtaining the same opportunities and liberties as their male counterparts.

International Women’s Day celebrations can look different, depending on where you are in the world.

In some places, the day is revered and is considered to be a national holiday, but other parts of the globe are not so keen on the occasion, with women risking their safety to take part in annual demonstrations amidst political threats, petitions, and calls for boycotts.

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From China to Russia, this is how International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world:


Despite China’s long history with Women’s Day — the holiday was adopted by Communist China from Russia in the late 1940s — the region has strayed from its original focus on female autonomy, becoming more of a commercial celebration.

Similar to Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, it’s hailed as an opportunity to express love towards women with gifts, outings and special treatment. Women’s Day events in the past have involved men wearing heels and makeup while climbing a mountain in the Guangdong province, as well as various fashion shows being held throughout the region.

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Female employees are supposed to be granted a half-day off work on March 8, but employers don’t always abide by the ruling advised by the State Council.

In 2015, five feminists were arrested on International Women’s Day for planning a protest against sexual harassment.


On International Women’s Day, otherwise known as La Festa Della Donna, women are encouraged to leave men behind, and celebrate the day with each other indulging in wine, flowers and cake.

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La Festa Della Donna became popular after the Second World War, when Italian feminists chose the mimosa flower as a symbol of strength on March 8.

Bright yellow mimosa flowers are sold throughout the country on International Women’s Day.  It’s traditional for young boys to present bouquets of mimosa flowers to their teachers, mothers and sisters.

While International Women’s Day is not an official public holiday in Italy, women are often given discounts on the occasion.

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Pakistani women participate in a rally to mark the 2019 International Women’s Day in Karachi, Pakistan. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER

“My body, my choice.”

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The key slogan for Pakistan’s 2020 Women’s Day march has led to considerable backlash in the country.

Some religious groups in the region have called the slogan ‘vulgar,’ while others have defended it, saying the phrase calls for women and men to have autonomy over what happens to their bodies. According to Amnesty International, the statement encompasses “sexual and reproductive rights, as well as freedom from physical abuse, domestic violence and rape.”

This year’s campaign has seen posters being vandalized, a petition to ban the march, as well as reports of threats from a hard-line political group in the country.

Women in Pakistan have been taking to the streets to rally on International Women’s Day since 2018, when the first Aurat March (Women’s March) was organized.

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The march was led by a collective called ‘Hum Auratein’ (We the woman) and called for accountability for violence against women.

Ranking 151 out of 153 countries, Pakistan has a dismal record on human rights for women according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index Report.

Saudi Arabia:

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The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia marked its first-ever Women’s Day in 2017. The three-day celebration took place from Feb. 1 to Feb. 3., in the country’s capital of Riyadh and featured talks on topics such as women’s right to drive and freedom of guardianship.

In the years since, Saudi Arabia has hosted Women’s Day celebrations in March to coincide with International Women’s Day. Festivities in the past for women’s day have included races, operettas, theatrical performances, as well as events hosted by female members of the Saudi Royal Family.

Saudi women have been granted significant liberties in recent years for a country known for its repressive laws against women.

Women in Saudi were granted a historic national first in 2018 — the right to drive. While thousands of women have relished the opportunity, some of the activists who fought for the decree remain behind bars.

In 2019, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman allowed for a decree that would give Saudi women the right to travel without a male relative’s permission and the ability to obtain family documents from the government.

The kingdom ranks 146 out of 153 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index Report.

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A woman with body paint on her chest marches during the 2018 International Women’s Day protest to demand equal rights in Santiago, Chile. EPA/MARIO RUIZ.

The slogan “never again without us women” will be heard across the streets of Chile on Sunday as over one million women are expected to take part in demonstrations over social injustice.

Female activists in the country have been calling for women’s rights issues to be the forefront of economic reforms, in the midst of protests that have been taking place since last year over the high cost of living.

According to the Chilean Network Against Violence Towards Women, over 125,000 cases of domestic violence are reported every year. The Guardian reported that in 2019 alone, 46 women were killed by their partners.


People sell flowers at the flowers market on the eve of the 2019 International Women’s Day in Moscow, Russia. EPA/YURI KOCHETKOV.

In Russia, International Women’s Day is treated with as much reverence as Valentine’s Day. It’s commonplace to see men buying gifts and flowers for women on the eve of March 8. In fact, the cost of flowers is known to double during the national holiday.

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International Women’s Day has been a public holiday in the region since 1965. Offices often mark the occasion by throwing a work party for their female colleagues the day before. From team lunches to gift-giving, women are celebrated thoroughly in the workplace.

The festivities start at an early age in Russia, where young boys are encouraged throw International Women’s Day parties for their female classmates.

Watch below: Canadian Women’s Day celebrations

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