Facts About International Women's Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated globally on March 8 every year to celebrate the contribution of women in various spheres of life. Here are some amazing facts to celebrate women power.

By Dr Shyam Kumar

Facts About International Women's Day
Famous women personalities
“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.”
― Plato, The Republic

About International Women's Day

International Women’s Day is a global day for celebrating the social, economic, political and cultural contributions that women have made to society.

To celebrate this event, here are some interesting Women’s Day facts you need to know.

Facts about International Women’s Day

  • International Women’s Day is celebrated globally on 8 March every year to celebrate the achievement of women in various spheres of life.
  • It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
  • This annual event aims to draw attention to women’s concerns and to promote awareness about the need for gender equality.
  • The International Women’s Day had its beginnings almost a century ago when gender discrimination and oppression of women were the norm.
  • The first International Women’s Day was held on 19 March in the year 1911. The date was later changed to 8 March in 1913.
  • The logo for International Women's Day is a purple-coloured arrow in a loop with the female gender symbol at the inset.
  • The theme of International Women’s Day 2020 is, 'I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights'.

Here are some amazing facts about extraordinary women who demonstrated acts of courage, leadership and determination to play a role in realising women’s rights and made significant achievements in various fields.

Famous women personalities (in India)

  • Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, was an Indian queen and warrior who is known for leading the rebellion against the British in 1857.
  • Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work to overcome poverty and distress in the slums of India.
  • Sarojini Naidu, also referred to as ‘The Nightingale of India’ was a freedom fighter and poet.
  • Annie Besant was a famous British social reformer, theosophist and women's rights activist who was an ardent supporter of the Indian independence.
  • Savitribai Phule was a women's rights activist, educationalist and poet who along with her husband, Jyotirao Phule, started the first school for girls in India at Bhide Wada in Pune.
  • M S Subbulakshmi, also known as ‘the queen of music’, was a famous Carnatic singer who received the Bharat Ratna.
  • P T Usha, also referred to as the ‘queen of Indian track and field’ and ‘Payyoli Express’, is remembered for her feat in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics where she missed winning a medal by one-hundredth of a second.
  • Kalpana Chawla was an American astronaut of Indian origin who lost her life in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. She was the first Indian-born woman to go to space.

Famous first achievements by Indian women

  • In 1937, Justice Anna Chandy became the first female judge in India. She was also India’s first woman High Court judge.
  • In 1951, Anna Malhotra became India’s first woman IAS officer.
  • In 1959, Arati Saha became the first and fastest Asian woman to swim across the English Channel. She is also the first Indian sportswoman to receive the Padma Shri in 1960.
  • In 1966, Smt Indira Gandhi became the first woman to serve as the Prime Minister of India.
  • In 1970, Kamaljeet Sandhu became the first Indian woman athlete to win a gold medal at the Asian games.
  • In 1972, Kiran Bedi became India’s first lady IPS officer.
  • In 1984, mountaineer Bachendri Pal became the first Indian woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
  • In 1989, Justice Fathima Beevi assumed the role of India's first female Supreme Court Judge.
  • In 1993, Priya Jhingan became the first ever Indian woman to join the Indian Army.
  • In 1994, Flt Lt Harita Kaur Deol became the first woman to fly solo in the Indian Air Force.
  • In 1997, Arundhati Roy was awarded the Booker Prize for her novel, 'The God of Small Things'. She is the first Indian woman to win the Booker Prize.
  • In 1987, Neerja Bhanot, a 22-year-old Indian air hostess, was posthumously awarded the Ashoka Chakra Award which is India’s highest gallantry award. She is the first and the youngest woman recipient of this award. She lost her life while trying to shield passengers from the bullets fired by terrorists on the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73.
  • In 2000, Karnam Malleswari created history by becoming India's first woman to win an Olympic medal (bronze) in weightlifting.
  • In 2001, S Vijayalakshmi won the title of India's first woman Grandmaster.
  • In 2012, Saina Nehwal became the first Indian badminton player to win a medal (bronze) at the Olympics.
  • In 2012, pugilist Mary Kom became the first female boxer to win an Olympic medal (bronze) for India. On 26 January 2020, she was decorated with the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian award, making her the first female sportswoman to receive this honour.
  • In 2019, P V Sindhu scripted history by defeating Japan's Nozomi Okuhara to win Gold at the Badminton World Championships, the only Indian to do so.
  • In 2019, Sub Lieutenant Shivangi Swaroop became the first woman pilot for the Indian Navy.
  • In 2019, Koneru Humpy became the first Indian Grandmaster to be crowned the women's World Rapid Chess champion in Moscow, Russia.

Famous first achievements by women from other countries

  • In 1903, Marie Curie received a Nobel prize in Physics becoming the first woman to receive the award. In 1911, she was awarded the second Nobel prize in Chemistry making her the first person to receive multiple Nobel prizes.
  • In 1932, Amelia Earhart, an American aviation pioneer and author, became the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • In 1963, Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova achieved the feat of becoming the first and youngest woman to fly to space.
  • In 1976, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci became the first woman to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the Olympic Games.
  • In 1986, Ann Bancroft completed a trek to the North Pole, the first by any woman. She followed it later by an expedition to the South Pole making her the first woman in history to have visited both the North and South Poles.
  • In 2017, Peggy Whitson, a female NASA astronaut, achieved a record of spending the most number of days in space (655 days) – the first by any human being.

Famous women activists

  • Malala Yousafzai is the world’s youngest Nobel laureate. In 2012, at the age of 15, she was shot at by the Taliban for speaking out publicly about the right to education for girls.
  • Greta Thunberg is a 17-year-old Swedish environmental activist who inspired 4 million people to join the global climate strike on 20 September 2019.
  • Kamla Bhasin is a social scientist and a feminist who has worked for gender equality, education-related issues, and women empowerment over a period of 35 years.
  • Irom Sharmila, also known as ‘The Iron Lady’ is a civil rights activist, a political activist, feminist and a poet from Manipur. She is famous for going on ‘the world’s longest hunger strike’ of 16 years to protest the action of military forces opening fire on civilians and killing them.
  • Medha Patkar is a social activist and a strong advocate for women’s rights in India. She is famous for being at the forefront of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, an Indian social movement protesting the construction of large dams on the river Narmada.
  • Indira Jaising is a legal expert and human rights activist known for her role in the framing of the Domestic Violence Act (2005).

Here’s a list of international women’s organisations that work to empower and recognise the contribution of women to society.

International women’s right organisations

  • The International Council of Women (ICW) was founded in 1888 with the primary goal being advancement of women. Currently it works in alliance with numerous organisations to promote health, education, equality and peace.
  • International Alliance of Women (IAW) is an international organisation founded in 1904 and based in Geneva. It is a non-governmental organisation that focusses on women empowerment, equality and women’s human rights issues.
  • UN Women is a global agency which strives to set global standards to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all aspects of life.
  • Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) is an international women’s advocacy organisation working to achieve gender equality, human rights and the integrity of the environment.
  • Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is a global feminist membership organisation working to achieve gender justice and women's human rights worldwide.
  • Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WILPF) founded in 1915 is the world’s longest standing women's peace organisation. It works to address international peace and security.

Global awards for women

  • Global Award for Women's Empowerment: The Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa Global Award for Women's Empowerment is given across four categories (public sector, private sector, civil society and individual champions). The winner of the awardreceives USD 100,000 for promoting women’s empowerment.
  • International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award: The IWOC Awards is an American award presented annually by the United States Department of State which aims to honour women around the world who have courageously and selflessly strived to advocate human rights, peace, justice, gender equality and women empowerment.
  • UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education: This award recognizes individuals, institutions or NGOs that play an innovative and outstanding role in facilitating girls’ and women’s education, enabling gender equality in education and empowering women by improving their quality of life. The award is funded by the Government of the People’s Republic of China and carries a cash prize of USD 50,000 to aid activities related to the welfare of women.
  • Global Women’s Leadership Awards: It is a lifetime achievement award given to recognise work that accelerates economic opportunities for women and girls globally through exchanges of working solutions and successful strategies from different parts of the world.The award is conferred by a US-based NGO, at the Global Summit of Women.
  • Neerja Bhanot Award: This award is given every year to any Indian woman who has overcome social injustice with perseverance and helped other women who underwent similar distress. The award was constituted in honour of late Neerja Bhanot, a senior flight purser, who died heroically while trying to save the lives of passengers on the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 on September 5, 1986. The award carries a cash prize of 1.5 lakh, a citation and a trophy.

Powerful books by women

  • ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott
  • ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte
  • ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte
  • ‘Agnes Grey’ by Anne Bronte
  • ‘Mrs Dalloway’ by Virginia Wolf
  • ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee
  • ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank
  • ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
  • ‘The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson’ by Emily Dickinson

Inspiring movies for women

  • Gravity
  • Mary Kom
  • Queen
  • Mirch Masala
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • Black Swan
  • Frida
  • The Iron Lady
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Erin Brockovich
  • Bend It Like Beckham
If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a family.
— Dr James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey

Women around the world continue to face significant difficulties at the workplace and at home. Much more needs to be done for the cause of women. We hope this article serves to enlighten how much women have accomplished in the face of oppression and inequality and why it calls for a celebration.

About the author:

Written by Dr Shyam Kumar on 26 February 2020

The author holds a degree in Homoeopathy with an MBA in Hospital Management and has worked across multiple disciplines including healthcare and technology. As a nature lover, he attended the world's first underwater CEO's conference to combat marine pollution.

Looking for expert tips and interesting articles on parenting? Subscribe now to our magazine. Connect with us on Facebook Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Join our Circles to share, discuss and learn from fellow parents and experts!