Women across the world celebrate International Women's Day 2021, highlighting the need for progress in achieving gender equality.
Women are rallying across the world to push for wide-ranging demands, stemming from the need for broad spectrum gender equality and an end to gender-based violence on International Women’s Day (IWD). Though many marches took place (with more scheduled), events have been subdued by Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.
Organisers have urged people all over the world to "put their hand up" and show they commit to choose to challenge [#ChooseToChallenge] and call out gender bias and inequality.
Polish women protest abortion ban
Women's rights activists in Poland marked the day caught between reasons to celebrate and a heavy sense that they are facing a long battle ahead.
This year's Women's Day, which is being marked with protests, comes after a near-total ban on abortion took effect in January in the historically Roman Catholic country, a step that had long been sought by the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice.
Polish activists are convinced that the process of social change ultimately will favour their struggle for reproductive freedom. Monday's protest focuses on abortion rights, but also includes calls for greater state support for in vitro procedures and sexual education.
Activists noted that Polish women are getting abortions no matter what the law says, some with pills and others by travelling to Slovakia, Germany, Norway or other countries.
“If a woman wants to have an abortion nothing will stop her," said activist Marta Krzynowek, who says the restriction on abortion rights are part of a larger assault on democracy in Poland.
Mexican activists honor violence victims
The names of women victimised by violence were painted on metal barriers erected around Mexico's national palace ahead of a major women's march as activists turned the fencing into a makeshift billboard for their movement.
Near the front of the colonial-era building that serves as both the president's offices and his residence, activists wrote: "Victims of Femicide" in huge letters across the top of the 10-foot-tall (3-m) barrier s, with the names of many women scrawled underneath.
Last year, at least 939 women were victims of femicide, the term used for homicides that deliberately target women, according to government data.
"It's absolutely fundamental that they're written down because our struggle is for them," said activist Marcela, who declined to provide her surname, as she stood in front of the barrier.
"We women want to ask for justice and that people understand, and that the president, who lives here, knows that we're fighting because they are killing us," she added.
The Mexican Government erected an enormous wall in front of its national palace to prevent feminists from protesting on International Women’s Day. Within one day the wall was painted with the names of 1000’s of women who have been victims of gender motivated murder in Mexico. https://t.co/HvHx7mAghH— 𝓐𝓷𝓭𝓪𝓵𝓪𝓵𝓾𝓬𝓱𝓪 (@Andalalucha) March 8, 2021
Kosovar women march against inequality
Hundreds of Kosovar women marked the day with a protest demanding more respect for their rights.
The protest titled “Marching, Not Celebrating” was also joined by men. Acting President Vjosa Osmani and Prime Minister-designate Albin Kurti also attended.
Participants held banners and banged kitchen utensils to protest against domestic violence, which is a major complaint in Kosovo, a patriarchal society that sees hundreds of cases registered by police every year.
Kosovo’s 1.8 million people, who are predominantly ethnic Albanian and Muslim, have a strongly patriarchal society in which women suffer domestic violence and societal discrimination.
Australians condemn violence against women
On Monday, hundreds of mostly female workers, from nurses and teachers to hairdressers and transport workers, gathered outside government buildings in Sydney to condemn violence against women and call for greater gender equality in workplaces, amid growing scrutiny over the treatment of women in Australian politics.
Celebrating IWD, a young woman stood outside the New South Wales state parliament, with the message "My body, my business" written across her body, while another held a placard reading "Equal work deserves equal pay!".
"Let us all work together ... so that we finally move to a world where sexual violence and sexual assault and sexual harassment is a thing of the past," Jenny Leong, a parliamentary representative from the Greens party told the crowd.
Australia's parliament is under increased scrutiny over sexual assault allegations.
Three female employees of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Liberal party last month said they had been raped by the same man in 2019 and 2020.
One of the alleged victims has lodged a complaint with the police.
Last week, Attorney General Christian Porter, the country's chief law officer, identified himself as the subject of a separate historical rape allegation, declared his innocence and strongly denied the claim.
The government recently launched a $14.57 million campaign urging people to speak up when they witness disrespect against women.
Women farmers join protests in India
More than 20,000 women farmers and protesters gathered on the outskirts of Delhi near its border with Haryana to mark IWD, demanding the scrapping of new laws that open up agriculture produce markets to private buyers.
Since December, a large number of farmers have camped at three sites on the outskirts of the Indian capital to oppose the biggest farm reforms in decades, which they say hurt them.
Wearing bright yellow scarves representing the colour of mustard fields, women took centre stage at one key site, holding small marches and making speeches through loudspeakers.
"This is an important day as it represents women's strength," said Veena, a 37-year-old from a farming family, who gave only one name in order to protect her identity.
"I believe if us women are united, then we can achieve our target much quicker," added Veena, who travelled from the northern state of Punjab to the sprawling Tikri protest site.
"This is a day that will be managed and controlled by women, the speakers will be women, there will be a lot of feminist perspectives brought in, and discussions on what these laws mean for women farmers," said farm activist Kavitha Kuruganti.
"It is one more occasion to showcase and highlight the contribution of women farmers both in agriculture in India as well as to this movement," Kuruganti said.
India says the reforms will bring private investment into a vast and antiquated farm sector, improve supply chains and cut colossal waste.
Women farmers have as much at stake as men from the new laws, Kuruganti added.
"Markets that are distant as well as exploitative make single women farmers more vulnerable, and in any case a patriarchal society has discriminated and made them vulnerable."
Myanmar women protest coup
In Myanmar, anti-coup protesters, many of them women, in southern coastal town Dawei, were protected by the Karen National Union, an ethnic armed group engaged a long-running war with the military.
Protesters waved flags fashioned from htamain (women's sarongs) in some places or hung them up on lines across the street to mark IWD while denouncing the junta.
Walking beneath women's sarongs is traditionally considered bad luck for men and so can slow down the advance police and soldiers.
Nay Chi, one of the organisers of the sarong movement, described the women as "revolutionaries".
"Our people are unarmed but wise. They try to rule with fear, but we will fight that fear," she said.
Serbia's female health workers mark women's day under pandemic shadow
Almost a year after they admitted Serbia's first Covid-19 patient, women doctors and nurses at the Clinical Center hospital in the northern city of Novi Sad are still at the frontline in the fight against the disease.
Instead of a traditional International Women's Day party, a legacy from the decades of communist rule, they spent most of their working day treating severely ill people.
The risk of catching the disease which has killed 150 doctors and nurses in Serbia is great and their work is physically and psychologically demanding.
"Emotions are involved in treating patients, especially when they are fully conscious and scared," nurse Maja Cvjetkovic told Reuters. "Sometimes we sing to them."
Although the rights of women in traditionally patriarchal Serbia have improved since the country sought to join the EU in the early 2000s, they are still fighting discrimination, home violence, a gender pay gap, sexism and misogyny.
"The burden of this pandemic fell on ... women. We are just as capable, hardworking and ready to share the burden of the development of Serbia," Gordana Comic, Serbia's Minister for Minority Rights, told reporters in Belgrade.
Swiss vote against women's right to veils ahead of IWD
IWD comes on the heels of Switzerland voting to ban face coverings, including the burka or niqab worn by Muslim women, following a controversial referendum that has been called Islamophobic and violating women's rights.
The national referendum dubbed the "burka ban" was launched in 2016 by a right-leaning initiative committee, was accepted by 51.2 percent of those who cast ballots with a participation of 51.4 percent of voters.
"Today's decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority," the Central Council of Muslims in Switzerland said.
Russia imports millions of flowers for Women's Day
With women activists and groups around the world dismissing flowers on IWD as an empty gesture, Russia imported thousands of tonnes of flowers in all shades and colours ahead of the day.
Russia's customs office reported that more than 9,000 tonnes of flowers crossed the border since mid-February, twice as many as the last year's figures.
The top four countries of origin were the Netherlands, Ecuador, Kenya and Colombia.
Florists at one of the largest flowers market in the capital, Moscow, expect business to be brisk on Monday so have been busy preparing.
They ordered their flowers well in advance, allowing enough time for shipments to pass through customs and get to the market.
And despite fears of a flower deficit amid the coronavirus pandemic, customers in Russia will have plenty of choice with 120 million imported flowers.
Turkish president marks International Women's Day
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also marked the occasion of International Women's Day with a message: "I congratulate all our women, who are the hopes of humanity with their love, efforts, and sacrifices, on March 8, International Women’s Day."
Turkey implemented many legal and administrative reforms to resolve issues such as discrimination, abuse of rights, and violence that women face in family, education, business, and social life, Erdogan said.
"Once again, I strongly condemn all kinds of physical and mental violence and discrimination against women, which I consider a crime against humanity," he added.
Stating that a new parliamentary commission is being formed to deal with violence against women, Erdogan stressed that no form of violence against women is tolerable.
World Athletics makes new equality pledges
World Athletics has marked IWD with a series of pledges to "further advance the role of girls and women" in the sport under the campaign slogan "WeGrowAthletics."
The world governing body said it is focusing on three core areas of the sport: empowering women in leadership positions, breaking with traditions and shining a spotlight on women’s stories across its platforms.
World Athletics appointed its first female vice president in 2019 and increased female Council representation to 30 percent and says it is committed to making that 40 percent by 2023 and an equal balance by 2027.
The Monaco-based organisation has also said it is reviewing traditions around the presentation of women's performances and achievements where there is often a bias.
NASA Mars scientists spur girls to 'reach for the stars'
With "one of the coolest jobs in the world", NASA rover operator Vandi Verma has hoped women's high profile in the latest Mars mission will inspire a new generation to pursue careers in a sector traditionally dominated by men.
Verma's colleague Swati Mohan made headlines around the world when she narrated the nail-biting landing of the Perseverance rover on the red planet, following its perilous descent through the Martian atmosphere.
"It definitely inspired girls everywhere. It opened people's perceptions of who can be a space engineer," Verma said ahead of IWD.
The space roboticist is operating the Perseverance – the most advanced astrobiology lab ever sent to another world – as it roams Mars looking for signs of ancient microbial life.
"I really think I have one of the coolest jobs in the world," said Verma, whose interest in space – like Mohan's – was fuelled by a childhood love of the TV series Star Trek.
"When Mars is visible in the sky you look at that little dot and you think right now there's a robot out there doing commands that I told it to do. That's pretty wild."
Kashmiri women 'carry heaviest burden'
A Kashmiri human rights defender asked international community to notice Kashmiri women who "have been carrying the heaviest burden" in the ongoing three-decades-long conflict.
In a letter addressed to the UN Security Council, the International Court of Justice, UN Commission on Human Rights and the EU, Ahsan Untoo, chairman of the International Forum for Justice Human Rights JK, exemplified the plight of Kashmiri women through the stories of four women whose sons or husbands have either been killed or jailed.
Untoo told Anadolu Agency that the world has largely been callous towards the suffering of Kashmiri women in India-administered Kashmir.
"Kashmiri women have been raped, killed and jailed. They also carry the burden of their men who have been killed, maimed, jailed or subjected to enforced custodial disappearance," he said.
"Their suffering is not accidental but a result of a policy of suppressing the voices of freedom," Untoo said.
Hundreds protest in Manila
Hundreds of protesters, mostly women, marched near the presidential palace in Manila to mark the International Working Women's day.
Nearly a thousand gathered, holding President Rodrigo Duterte's government accountable for the rise of unemployment, poverty and human rights violations during the pandemic.
Jom Salvador, the Secretary-General of General Assembly Binding Women for Reforms, Integrity, Equality, Leadership, and Action led Monday's event, said, they "cannot bear wanton destruction of people's lives and rights".
Protesters carried a 10-foot effigy, called Dutertutaka, resembling an image of the Philippine president with a decoration of two flags depicting US and China, along with all the socio-economic issues affecting women.
Designed by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines, the effigy was struck by symbolic tools such as frying pan, syringe, bolos, mallet, and disinfectant.
Once smashed open, the effigy spilled balloons and confetti, symbolising a better society.
Afghan women leave journalism in droves as violence soars
Nearly 20 percent of Afghan women journalists have quit or lost their jobs in the past six months, a media watchdog group said on Monday, as a wave of murders targeting the press has intensified in the war-torn country.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee said that more than 300 women had left the industry in recent months, citing the "wave of targeted killings" as one of the main reasons –– along with financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The report comes as the world marks International Women's Day and less than a week after three female media workers from Enikass TV were gunned down by militants in the eastern city of Jalalabad in an attack claimed by the local Islamic State group affiliate.
Another woman working for the station was murdered in December. On Monday, Enikass said it had asked all remaining women staffers to stay home until security improves.
"I love journalism but I also love to live," Nadia Momand, a presenter at Enikass, told AFP news agency.
"I'm not going to go out again unless they send me an armoured vehicle."
"There is no protection for them," said Zalmai Latifi, the broadcaster's director.
"We also decided not to hire any additional women employees," he added.