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.

Equality also lies in ridding the media and collective imagination of prejudice by highlighting the women scientists, artists and politicians who are moving humanity forward in all fields.  

Message of Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, for International Women's Day 2017

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, 42 years ago.

This year, the UN theme for International Women's Day is "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. Despite the enormous progress since 1975, women are still underrepresented in too many  sectors of society, undermining progress and sustainable development. It  constrains creativity and talent and suffocates inclusion and pluralism. This does not just harm women – it weakens the very fabric of societies.

For the celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, UNESCO will focus on Women and Art, showcasing the work of young women artists and discussing the way forward.

To know more about IWD, click here.


  • By 2016, fewer than half of the countries in the world had achieved the goal of gender parity in both primary and secondary education (UNESCO)

  • 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)

  • Women make up only 23.3% of Parliamentarians worldwide (IPU, 2017)

  • 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 #IWD2017 and #WomensDay to share your thoughts on International Women's Day.

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 2017 around the world

UNESCO's IWD previous editions

2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005

Take the Gender Equality CheckUp!