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International Women's Day: A fight for freedom

March 8, 2023

Women are marching in cities across the world to demand better living conditions, safety, equal opportunities and pay.

Protests in Pakistan on International Women's Day
The day is meant to recognize challenges and focus greater attention on women's rightsImage: Rahmat Gul/ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

Women around the world are celebrating International Women's Day on Wednesday.

The annual event on March 8 has its roots in the socialist and labor movements of the 20th century in the US and celebrates the social, economic and political achievements of women or the fight for it, as in Iran or Afghanistan.

Iranian women filmmakers have been exploring their country through films for years, determined to amplify the voices and lives of women in the country. One Iranian girl told DW, "If freedom is not for anyone, if it's not for everyone."

Iranian women continue to fight for freedom

In Afghanistan, Taliban rulers have banned women from attending universities as well as middle and high school.

At an International Women's Day event in Berlin, Afghan women in Germany and Netherlands urged the government to intensify its efforts in bringing Afghans to Germany.

Family Minister Lisa Paus on women's rights in Afghanistan

In Mexico, women marched in protest against gender violence that has intesified in recent years. Government data shows that more than 10 females are slain on average every day in Mexico, making it one of the dangerous countries in the world for girls and women.

Mexicans are demanding an end to femicide or violence against women
Mexicans are demanding an end to femicide or violence against womenImage: Felix Marquez/dpa/picture alliance

In Indonesia, people took to the streets to demand higher minimum wages for women as well as an end to physical and emotional violence against women.

Indonesian woman with sign that reads Hardcore/Punk against Rape Culture
Indonesians are taking to the streets to demand safetyImage: Algi Febri Sugita/Zuma/picture alliance

In Berlin, where the day is a bank holiday, women took to the streets to show solidarity with Ukrainian women caught up in the war with Russia.

Women with banners in Berlin
Women take to the streets in Berlin, where it's a public holiday on March 8Image: Annegret Hilse/REUTERS

Almost one in two African women has experience violence at some point in her life, with a 2020 study showing that 44% of African women experience gender-based violence. African filmamkers are determined to hold up the mirror to reveal the characters of their movies: the strong women watching their films in the audience.

FESPACO: Women take center stage at 2023 film festival

Women take matters into their hands

While women are pushing for equal rights, there's still a long way to go.

In China, wives of detained human rights lawyers are taking matters into their hands. They are speaking out against the Chinese government's abuses on socia media and in interviews, even though its dangerous for them.

In India, the fight to protect domestic workers, many of whom are underpaid and abused, goes on. On the political level, fight for political respresentation also continues.

Women kick off their morning with a yoga routine in a local train in Mumbai, India
Women kick off their morning with a yoga routine in a local train in Mumbai, IndiaImage: Francis Mascarenhas/REUTERS

On the national level, many European countries are adopting feminist foreign policies, with Germany's minister for family affairs saying that "the feminist perspective in this digital world is still lacking and, therefore, this meeting is so important because we put now in the female perspective in digitization, on the complete agenda."

Swimmers take a sunrise dip in the North Sea at Portobello Beach, in Edinburgh, Scotland
Women brave face freezing conditions on Edinburgh's Portobello beach to celebrate International Women's Day on Wednesday morningImage: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The UN set this year's theme to "DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality" to highlight the role of innovative technology in promoting gender equality and meeting the developmental needs of women and girls.

Even though women are entering the tech force in numbers, they often have to work harder to prove themselves because of their gender.

Some progress in rights 

There are some examples of progress when it comes to women's rights. Canada on Tuesday expunged historic indecency and anti-abortion laws targeting women and the LGBT community in a criminal justice reform that will allow people convicted under such offenses to clear their records.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to "work even harder" to tackle gender inequality, including one of the world's gender pay gaps.

Marches and other events are planned in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Istanbul, among other cities.

rm/ar (Reuters, AP, AFP)