International Women’s Day, an annual event on March 8, celebrates the achievements of women worldwide. This year the theme is “Choose to Challenge,” which challenges gender bias and inequality, according to the International Women’s Day site. To show solidarity the site encourages everyone to take a picture raising their hand and using #ChooseToChallenge on social media.
Although the right for women to vote in the U.S. was signed into law in 1920, women of color were not allowed to vote until the mid-20th century, according to Teen Vogue in an article titled, “When Did Women Get the Right to Vote in the United States? A Timeline.” Women are still not equally paid compared to their male counterparts, according to PayScale’s research titled “The State of the Gender Pay Gap in 2020.”
“Women are still not equally paid compared to their male counterparts”
Of course, there have been great achievements too. In America, Kamala Harris is not only the first woman to be Vice President of the United States, but the first woman of color to hold that position. Amanda Gorman was the first person named as National Youth Poet Laureate. Based on a true story, the movie “Hidden Figures,” tells the story of three Black women mathematicians who helped America fight during the Cold War while defying gender norms, according to Smithsonian Magazine in an article titled, “The True Story of “Hidden Figures,” the Forgotten Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.” It is also important to highlight how women of color have defied gender roles through leadership around the world.
Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan activist, was known for her advocacy in human rights and environmental policies. In 2004 Maathai was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Prize for the Green Belt Movement. Due to climate change, she saw water and food supply becoming less accessible which directly impacted rural communities in Kenya, so she then decided to create the Green Belt Movement in 1977, according to the organization’s website.
GBM empowers the lives of women by focusing on environmental conservation. As a member of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK), Maathai created GBM to not only encourage women to help the environment by planting trees but giving them a source of income by planting the trees. GBM soon spread all over Africa to become the Pan African Green Belt Network.
“As a member of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK), Maathai created GBM to not only encourage women to help the environment by planting trees but giving them a source of income by planting the trees”
Maathai also strongly advocated against the regime of President Daniel Arap Moi. He was known for democracy in name, but his leadership saw authoritarian policies, corruption and human rights violations, according to a New York Times article titled, “Daniel Arap Moi, Autocratic and Durable Kenyan Leader, Dies at 95.” Maathai marched with the mothers of sons who were jailed for opposing Moi in the “Freedom Corner March” in 1992. She also spoke about women and the environment at the United Nations, according to the Nobel Prize’s “Wangari Maathai Biographical.” Maathai made breakthroughs not limited to climate change but extended to women and human rights.
Japan has a history of gender inequality when it comes to women in politics. According to an article by CNN titled, “Japan has so few women politicians that when even one is gaffe-prone, it’s damaging,” there are only 46 women out of the 465 lower house lawmakers, which is fewer than 10% of women in politics. The average in Asia is 20% as of October, according to CNN. Even the Tokyo Olympic executive board is currently 80% male, according to the Associated Press in an article titled, “Seiko Hashimoto takes over as Tokyo Olympic president.”
Seiko Hashimoto, one of the few women in Japanese politics and previous Olympic athlete recently replaced Yoshiro Mori as the new Tokyo Olympic president. Mori resigned due to growing criticism over his comment that women talk too much. Before Hashimoto was granted the position of Tokyo Olympic president, she competed seven times in the Olympics. She won a bronze medal in speedskating during the 1992 summer Olympic games in France.
Hashimoto was elected to the upper house parliament in 1995 where she is the only Japanese woman who was an athlete and lawmaker at the same time. She also was the first Japanese woman lawmaker to give birth during her term in parliament. As a lawmaker Hashimoto has focused on giving more opportunities for education, children and helping the low-birth rate in Japan.
More recently, Hashimoto served on the Olympics ministry and minister in charge of women’s empowerment, according to a Reuters article titled, “Likely new head of Tokyo 2020 is ex-Olympian, minister for women’s rights.” She hopes to help gender equality by promoting women in sports while being the Tokyo Olympic president, according to an article titled, “After Leader’s Sexist Remark, Tokyo Olympics Makes Symbolic Shift.”
Jennicet Gutiérrez is an LGBTQ+ activist famously known for interrupting President Obama during a Pride month speech in 2015 by shouting “release all LGBTQ+ immigrants from detention.” As she shouted those words Gutiérrez knew that she was being put at risk because she was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, according to an article titled, “Jennicet Gutiérrez is Fighting for the Trans Undocumented Community.”
In 2015 Gutiérrez discovered that undocumented transgender individuals were being abused under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During President Obama’s speech about Pride month, the room was full of LGBTQ+ activists, but Gutiérrez said the activists booed her for interrupting, which she felt sad about, according to the site.
“release all LGBTQ+ immigrants from detention.”Jennicet Gutiérrez, LGBTQ+ Activist
Gutiérrez is also the co-founder and community organizer of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. To this day she continues to work in activism to fight against deportation, incarceration and criminalization of people of color, according to her Facebook page. She recently called on President Biden to provide more equal treatment for the LGBTQ+ community in an article titled, “LGBTQ+ Activists Call on Biden to Release All-Trans Immigrants From ICE Detention.”
Poet and activist Amanda Gorman, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other guest speakers will be hosting a talk in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Click to find out more!