International Women's Day 2016

Step it up for gender equality march.
Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

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The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. The United Nations observance on 8 March will reflect on how to accelerate the 2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals. It will equally focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.


Beginning the day in New York City, at 8.30 a.m. film stars and UN and New York City officials kicked-off the inaugural HeForShe Arts Week, a new initiative by UN Women to leverage the arts for gender equality. UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson, SDG Advocate and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Forest Whitaker, First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, The Public Theater’s Artistic Director Oskar Eustis and others took part in the launch. The HeforShe Arts Week will run from 8-15 March 2016, during which time over 30 partners throughout the city of New York—ballets, operas, Broadway shows, music concerts, theatres, cinemas, galleries and museums—will highlight gender equality and women’s rights, and donate a percentage of proceeds to UN Women. Read more.

Watch the entire event here.

The official UN commemoration took place in the Trusteeship Council at the UN Secretariat in New York City from 10 a.m.-12.45 p.m. It consisted of a series of musical performances and two panel discussions. The first, from 10-11.15 a.m., reflected on what a gender-equal planet means and how to achieve it by 2030 by joining the efforts of the United Nations, governments, civil society and the private sector. For the second panel, entitled “The Push for Parity”, panelists probed the progress made in achieving gender equality in the UN system, examined the challenges remaining and unpacked how to mainstream gender perspectives from 11.15 a.m.–12.45 p.m. See the flyer. Read participant bios.

Watch the archived webcast of the UN commemoration:

Also on 8 March, UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in New York at 9 a.m. Similar events took place in 35 countries around the world as part of joint awareness-raising efforts with the Global Compact and other partners. Read more.

Around the world, UN Women is organizing International Women’s Day events in more than 60 countries, including: a friendly hockey match between a men’s and women’s team in Tanzania on 5 March; a march and cycling rally in New Delhi, India on 6 March; a festival with live musical and dance performances in Palestine on 8 March; marches, a football match and painting expositions across Albania from 5-8 March; and a women’s “run to Step It Up” in São Paulo, Brazil on 20 March—to name just a few. See what happened »

Speeches and messages

UN Secretary-General's message for 2016
“We have shattered so many glass ceilings we created a carpet of shards. Now we are sweeping away the assumptions and bias of the past so women can advance across new frontiers,” says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for International Women’s Day 2016.

UN Women Executive Director’s message for IWD 2016
“Each one of us is needed—in our countries, communities, organizations, governments and in the United Nations—to ensure decisive, visible and measurable actions are taken under the banner: Planet 50-50: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” says UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in her message. [ also available in ar | fr | ru | sp | zh ]

“We must make sure that the UN is fit for purpose to make a 50-50 Planet happen”—UN Women Executive Director
Speech by UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the official United Nations commemoration of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2016, New York.

For International Women's Day messages from the UN system, visit Women Watch.

Interactive timeline: Women’s Footprint in History

Timeline: Women's Footprint in History

Throughout history, women have made extraordinary contributions to their societies. Some are well known, some less so, but all have been trail blazers. Explore a selection of these women and learn what the reality still is today for many women and girls worldwide. View timeline »

Photo essay: A day in the life of women

Photo: Agron Dragaj

Teachers, farmers, businesswomen, politicians, mothers, law enforcers — women and girls contribute every day in many visible and invisible ways. Here’s a glimpse into their lives.




Join the conversation for International Women’s Day, #IWD2016!

  • Main hashtags: #IWD2016 (#DíadelaMujer, #Journéedelafemme); #Planet5050 – check out the automatic emoji on Twitter when tweeting with the hashtag #IWD2016!
  • Main Twitter accounts: @UN_Women (English), @ONUMujeres (Spanish), @ONUFemmes (French)
  • Main Facebook accounts: UN Women (English), ONU Mujeres (Spanish), ONU Femmes (French)
  • Other accounts: Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest
  • Change your Facebook and Twitter cover image with the banners available in English, Spanish and French (under “General”) here.
  • If you organize or participate in a local International Women’s Day event, share your images and messages on our Facebook Event page and bring your event to a global audience.
  • On 8 March, log into Snapchat to see the Live Story celebrating remarkable women.
  • Follow our accounts for live coverage from the different events and share content from our social media package, which is available with images, videos and sample promotional messages in English, Spanish and French here.
  • UN Women is launching the first four portraits of a new social media series visualizing what a gender-equal world, a #Planet5050, will look like. The featured pairs represent overcoming discrimination and they call for gender equality in all areas of life: from valuing girls’ talents to redistributing women’s burden of care work, to protecting the rights of lesbian and transgendered women. Their inspiring examples show us where we want to be by 2030 and keep the pressure on governments to live up to their promises.

About IWD

The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March during International Women’s Year 1975. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

International Women’s Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.

Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

See our coverage of International Women’s Day 2015
See our coverage of International Women’s Day 2014
See our coverage of International Women’s Day 2013
See our coverage of International Women’s Day 2012