International Women’s Day: How is it celebrated around the world?

The day takes place on Monday 8 March this year

Olivia Petter
Monday 08 March 2021 09:43 GMT
International Women's Day: when and how did the annual event start?

International Women’s Day (IWD) is being celebrated around the world on Monday 8 March, as people come together to champion the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality.

While the day itself carries the clear theme of female empowerment across the world, the way it’s acknowledged and celebrated differs from country to country.

Some companies offer women a half-day off work, for example, while others celebrate by giving one another flowers.

Read on to see how International Women’s Day celebrations vary across the globe.

United States

In the US, the whole of March is Women’s History Month.

This has been an ongoing celebration since February 1980 when President Jimmy Carter declared the week of 8 March as National Women’s History Week.

Within a few years, thousands of schools across the country had embraced the week as a means of achieving equality in the classroom, something that was spearheaded by the National Women’s History Alliance. It was also supported by city councils and governors, who ran events and special programmes to champion female empowerment.

The celebrations evolved and by 1986, 14 states had extended the celebrations to last for the duration of March.

Now, every year an official statement of recognition is issued by the President, known as a Presidential Proclamation, on IWD to honour the achievements of American women.


In Italy, International Women’s Day is called La Festa della Donna.

It’s celebrated primarily by the giving of bright yellow mimosa blossom flowers. On the day itself, bouquets of the sunshine-hued blooms are sold on almost every street corner in Italy, the idea being that people honour the women in their lives by giving them these flowers, which are viewed as a symbol of female strength and sensibility.

This floral theme also manifests in confectionery form, with some Italians choosing to celebrate IWD by making a special cake designed to resemble small blooms of the mimosa flower. Traditionally, this is a sponge cake made with citrus liqueur and topped with cream and cubes of pastry to mimic the shape of the flower.


In China, 8 March has been a national holiday since 1949. Many companies offer female employees a half-day on International Women’s Day so that they can spend the afternoon celebrating.

Similar to Valentine's Day, IWD in China is viewed as an opportunity for people to treat the women they love with special gifts.

It has, therefore, been adopted as a day for commercial opportunities, with many brands capitalising on the probability that people want to spend money on the women in their lives by launching special IWD marketing campaigns and deals.

China also celebrates Girl’s Day on 7 March, which is dedicated to championing the achievements of younger Chinese women in schools and universities.


On 24 January 2019, Berlin’s parliament voted for International Women’s Day, known as Frauentag, to become a public holiday.

This means that workers in the German capital, the only state in the country to recognise the day as a public holiday, will get the day off.


In the UK, International Women’s Day is celebrated in a number of ways, with a special focus on raising awareness of social and political issues affecting women.

Events taking place around the country this year in honour of IWD include virtual panel talks, screenings and art exhibitions, many of which aim to raise funds for specific charities dedicated to women’s rights.

In the past, fashion brands have partnered with women’s charities to raise money through sales of special IWD garments.


In 2018, more than five million female workers marked International Women's Day with a landmark 24-hour strike to protest against the gender pay gap, domestic violence and sexual discrimination in the workplace.

Rallies took place around the country in more than 200 locations. Those taking part were encouraged by organisers not to spend any money on the day and not participate in any domestic chores.

In 2019, similar protests, as organised by the feminist organisation The 8M Commission, took place.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in