International Women's Day 2019: what does it mean to you?

For over a century International Women’s Day (IWD) has celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world.

The day takes place on 8 March every year, with this year’s theme championing #BalanceforBetter, which looks to improve gender representation through collective action and shared responsibility. This year, the campaign aims to extend beyond one day and dedicate the whole of 2019 to creating a period of history where boardrooms, governments, the media and more are all gender-balanced.

Inspirational Erasmus+ women

From organisations promoting gender inclusion to the powerful stories of individual female participants, women are at the core of many Erasmus+ projects. A quick browse through our stories page and you can read about inspiring women like Cinzia, who challenged perceptions of disability through a volunteering placement and her love of dance, and organisations like Sheffield College, which tackled the shortfall in the number of women choosing to study STEM subjects.

But what about the people behind the programme? Let’s hear their views on International Women’s Day and see who inspires them.

UK National Agency staff celebrating International Women's Day by pulling party poppers and striking the #BalanceForBetter post

Celebrating the achievements of women throughout history

Many UK National Agency staff members agree that IWD is a chance to recognise the impact of women across the world. 

“It’s a day when we celebrate the amazing social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women,” said Kawsar, an assistant project manager within the Erasmus+ team. Annum, project manager, agreed: “It recognises the achievements of some of the people throughout history who have championed women.”

These days our society and media get quickly loud about disasters, terror, crime. However, days that are specifically dedicated to someone or something, like women, help us to celebrate achievements.

Other staff see the day as a chance to take a break from the negative stories that often dominate the news and appreciate the positive instead.

“These days our society and media get quickly loud about disasters, terror, crime. However, days that are specifically dedicated to someone or something, like women, science or pandas, help us to celebrate the achievements, evaluate the progress that has been made and make the plan for moving forward,” said project manager Sara. 

Looking back in order to move forward

As well as taking the time to review how attitudes towards gender and equality have changed over the years, International Women’s Day also means acknowledging that there is still work to do.

Senior project manager Sara believes IWD is an opportunity to refocus our efforts: “Days such as International Women’s Day are incredibly important as they raise awareness of the role and reality of minority groups and those who society perhaps doesn’t currently recognise fully.

“They can be inspirational and instrumental in achieving change as they are a rallying cry to focus on current issues and work together on solutions for change and development.”

Who is a woman that inspires you?

Inclusion and diversity are a vital part of Erasmus+, and International Women’s Day is a great way to highlight this through appreciating the work of those involved in the programme – including those working behind the scenes in the Erasmus+ offices. But what women are they inspired by?

The responses ranged from Ilhan Omar – the first Somali-American elected to the United States Congress and one of the only two Muslim women in Congress – to economist and author Kate Raworth – who talks about the need for economic transformation in order to address social and economic challenges in a sustainable way through her book ‘Doughnut Economics’.

“I’m inspired by Oprah,” said Sara, “She has re-evaluated her purpose and motivation, and now, when diving into teachings about nutrition, meditation, spirituality or equality, she has power to influence millions

“She is also an example of how to use the strengths that are associated with being a woman such as patience, compassion, emotional focus and intuition.”

It is important that we acknowledge the positive energy women provide all over the world.

Kawsar took a different approach to this question: “I’m not going to name any specific women, but what I can say is I’ve been surrounded by inspirational women throughout my life.

“A woman gave me an education, from teaching me the alphabet to helping me pass my GCSEs when I was struggling at school, a woman has provided me with employment after two years of no employment. And without women, the company that I work for would certainly not exist.

“I read a quote years ago that may relate to this question: ‘Women are one half of society which gives birth to the other half, so it is as if they are the entire society’. It is important that we acknowledge the positive energy women provide all over the world.”

You can find out more about International Women’s Day and this year’s theme on the campaign’s website. Make sure you keep up to date with the conversation by following #IWD2019 and #BalanceforBetter on social media.

Do you have a project that aims to create a more gender balanced and inclusive society? Tweet us and let us know!