International Women’s Day is a global celebration of all women, everywhere. It is a rallying call; both for reflection on lessons learned and for accelerating momentum towards gender equality and the empowerment of every girl and woman.

It is a day to rejoice in the extraordinary acts of women and to stand together, as a united force to advance gender equality around the world.

 Gender equality stands at the heart of the 2030 agenda, as a basic human right and a transformational force for more just, inclusive and sustainable development.     

Irina Bokova, UNESCO Director-General on International Women's Day 2016

Click here for the Director-General's full message for International Women's Day 2016

A bit of history: International Women’s Day, back to 1975

Since its inception, International Women’s Day has grown into a global celebration of past and present accomplishments of women, and as an opportunity to look ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities for future generations of women.  

In 1945, the Charter of the United Nations became the first international agreement to affirm the principal of equality between women and men. With that belief in mind, the UN celebrated its first official International Women's Day in 1975, almost 41 years ago.

During this past year the world came together to agree on Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement for climate change. With gender equality at the heart of this agenda, this year's theme for International Women's Day is, “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality."


Events in Paris

Field Office Activities


  • 31 million girls of primary school age are not in school (UNESCO, 2013)

  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lives (UN, 2015)

  • Nearly two thirds of illiterate people are women, a proportion that has remained unchanged for two decades (UN, 2015)

  • Less than 4% of CEOs in the world’s largest 500 corporations are women (UN, 2015)

  • Women account for two thirds of the world's poorest citizens (UNESCO, 2014)

  • Women are underrepresented in scientific and technological disciplines. Only 29% of the world’s researchers are women (UNESCO, 2014)

Spread the word!

Use the Hashtag #IWD2016 to talk about your experience of International Women's Day 2016.

UNESCO's commitment to Gender Equality

UNESCO works in all its sectors to promote gender equality and women's rights. Read here our Gender Equality Priority Action Plan for 2014-2021 and visit our Division for Gender Equality's website!

IWD 2016 around the world

UNESCO's IWD previous editions

2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

UIS releases new e-Atlas on gender inequality

What is UNESCO doing for Gender Equality in 2016?