For more than 100 years, International Women’s Day has been an event where people come together to celebrate the economic, social and political strides that have been made in improving the lives of women. But there is still a long way to go in the fight for gender equality worldwide.
The event was previously known as National Women’s Day, which came about after 15,000 women garment workers went on strike in 1908 to protest poor working conditions. In 1909, it was recognised as an official annual event to remember those that went on strike.
Then, in 1910, a Ukrainian suffragist named Clara Zetkin posed the idea of making it a worldwide occasion at the International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, creating International Women’s Day. In 1975, the UN marked it as an official event to take place annually on 8 March.
The theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge, focusing on how collectively we can create an inclusive world by challenging inequality and gender bias while celebrating women’s achievements.
It’s as poignant as ever this year, as the pandemic has proved to be a huge obstacle for women’s rights, with lockdowns seeing an increase in domestic abuse towards women and children across the board.
In a letter written by the UK Women’s Budget Group to the Treasury Select Committee about the economic impact of Covid-19, it was noted that women are twice as likely to be key workers, 36 per cent of young women worked in sectors that have been closed during lockdown and women are four per cent more likely to have lost their job during the pandemic than men.
Not only that, The Independent reported that 86 per cent of women who do a standard week of work on top of childcare suffered mental distress in April 2020, at the height of the first coronavirus lockdown.
However, it’s not all bleak – since 2020’s International Women’s Day, we’ve seen the US elect Kamala Harris to be the first woman vice president, Scotland became the first country to allow free and universal access to period products and in New Zealand, Nanaia Mahuta was appointed foreign minister, making her both the first woman and indigenous woman to hold the post.
Despite some of the great strides that have been made, there’s still a long way to go. So we’ve curated a guide to the brands marking this year’s International Women’s Day in some way. From fragrances to jewellery, shopping with these companies will be making a difference for women around the globe.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Elemis x Olivia Rubin pro-collagen rose and relax duo: £55, Elemis.com
This limited-edition set features a refreshing rose-scented face mist and an oud and amber candle to help you unwind and relax at the end of a busy day.
Aside from being a fun, colourful addition to your mantelpiece and skincare routine, £5 from each sale will be donated to The Prince's Trust’s #ChangeAGirlsLife campaign.
The charity has created a coronavirus support hub and an action plan to help women navigate these times of huge uncertainty in a struggling economy.
Offering careers advice, online courses, and partnerships with employers such as M&S, the NHS and HSBC, it can be a real lifeline to those struggling. The project also helps participants improve their interview and CV-writing skills, with some partners offering trial shifts and jobs at the end.
Anissa Kermiche bra earring: £190, Anissakermiche.com
You may well be familiar with fine jewellery and homeware brand Anissa Kermiche, thanks to its ceramic “love handles” vases, pots and jugs that depict the female form (from £65, Anissakermiche.com). The cheeky shelf adornments have found a huge fan base, especially on Instagram.
Available from 8 March, Kermiche is launching a new, singular bra earring to celebrate International Women’s Day. Hanging from the wearer’s ear as if it was drying on a washing line or draped on the floor after a long day, it’s aim is to give a playful nod to the everyday essential and its status as a symbol of womanhood.
Costing £190, it’s made from brass with 24k yellow gold plating. All profits from the earring will be donated to Solace Women’s Aid, a charity that works with survivors of abuse and violence to provide support, safe accommodation, counselling and holistic therapies.
Anya Hindmarch + Margaret Calvert International Women's Day printed organic cotton-jersey T-shirt: £85, Netaporter.co.uk
Luxury fashion retailer Net-A-Porter has collaborated with female designers including Stella McCartney and Emilia Wickstead for a 13-piece edit that celebrates International Women’s Day. Each piece represents the designer’s personal interpretation of female empowerment.
This white T-shirt from Anya Hindmarch features graphic designer and typographer Margaret Calvert's “woman at work” – an update to the road sign that Calvert first designed in the 1960s. Throw on with jeans and under jumpers for a piece that will get lots of wear.
For every product sold from the edit, 100 per cent of the profits will go to Women for Women International, a charity that helps survivors of war and those that live in countries affected by conflict.
The charity brings together groups of 25 women to support each other, and offers training in marketable skills such as tailoring, which can be turned into a stable income. They also receive financial loans to set up cooperatives in their own hometowns, receive education on health, hygiene and nutrition to help treat preventable diseases, and are connected with healthcare providers.
Women are also being taught about important political issues such as voting rights, divorce, custody of children and access to land, in order to better equip them to help themselves and their community.
Tatty Devine invisible woman necklace: £30, Tattydevine.com
Eclectic jewellery brand Tatty Devine has made a name for itself with its statement pieces since it’s launch in 1999, often collaborating with artists, designers and charities.
Its third collection in partnership with the Fawcett Society is one worth putting your support behind. Founders Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine have incorporated messages from the feminist movement, including quotes from the politician Millicent Fawcett and the author Jeanette Winterson.
The collection starts from £30 and £3 from every piece goes towards supporting the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality. It focuses its efforts on fighting for equal pay, diversity in politics at every level, tackling gender stereotypes and campaigning for women’s rights during Covid-19.
We love this invisible woman acrylic design that‘s inspired by the bestselling book Invisible Women, Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by activist and author Caroline Criado Perez (£7.99, Waterstones.com). The book is a deep dive into how gender bias has dictated much of the data used across government policy, medical research, technology, workplaces, urban planning and the media.
L’Occitane shea hibiscus solidarity hand cream: £8, Loccitane.com
This shea butter-rich hand cream does more than just moisturise. All profits will go towards the L’Occitane Foundation, which supports non-governmental organisations that work towards supporting women’s economic independence in Burkina Faso, where L'Occitane sources its shea butter from.
The brand first began working with shea butter producers in “fair partnerships” in the 1980s, and since the foundation’s creation in 2006, more than 30,000 Burkinabè women have received support. The foundation also partners with UNICEF to support girls’ schooling in Burkina Faso.
Jo Malone London limited edition peony & blush suede cologne: £100, Jomalone.com
Luxury fragrance house Jo Malone London is well-loved for its perfumes and ancillary fragrances, so if you’re running low on your current favourite, why not stock up while proceeds will be going to its charity partner, Phoenix Futures.
Throughout all of March, or while stocks last, Jo Malone London will be donating £20 from every sale of its limited-edition peony & blush suede cologne, which has been decorated especially to mark International Women’s Day, to the charity.
Phoenix Futures provides help and support to women struggling with their mental health, self-esteem issues and physical health in residential, community and prison spaces. It creates programmes for individuals to help them recover from eating disorders, aid with physical disabilities and to help those recovering from drug and alcohol problems. Its goal is to help those struggling get back on track and lead healthy lives.
Edge of Ember fearless gold necklace: £105, Edgeofember.com
Edge of Ember is an ethical accessories brand that uses sustainably sourced materials from communities in countries such as Thailand and Hong Kong, working to ensure workers are paid fairly and are in safe working environments.
It does this by carrying out independent audits on its facilities and supply chains to ensure recycling and environmental initiatives are up to scratch, and by improving employee benefits such as maternity leave and health insurance. Year-round, proceeds from its jewellery sales go towards social initiatives that help struggling and impoverished communities. For example, for its Jaipur factory workers, it helps fund literacy classes for women and computer literacy training for children.
This year, with every necklace sold, £15 from each will be donated to Women for Women International, a charity that works with women survivors of war and those living in countries affected by conflict. From financial aid to a pen-pal scheme for emotional support, the organisation enrols women in year-long training programmes that teach them how to develop skills to help them earn money, improve their family’s health and have a voice in their community. The aim is to eventually break cycles of poverty and enable better futures for their children.
This delicate long, round pendant made from gold vermeil is stamped with the inscription ‘fearless’ in homage, and would make a beautiful layering piece or statement on its own.
Papier x Gurls Talk notebook: £24.99, Papier.com
Stationery company Papier, known for its colourful diaries and notebooks, has teamed up with model and mental-health activist Adwoa Aboah for a limited-edition collection, launching on 5 March. All profits will be donated by Papier to Gurls Talk, a community-led organisation founded by Aboah that works to improve the mental health and wellbeing of adolescents who identify as girls and women.
It creates safe spaces online and offline for its community to access mental-health resources and share their experiences in a bid to ensure they never feel alone or unsupported. Sharing stories about the reality of being bipolar, discovering your sexuality and how to practice self-care, Gurls Talk hosts podcasts, live events and online conversations to destigmatize mental-health conversations.
This vibrant orange notebook is perfect for staying on top of your to-do list while working from home and will help keep you organised as you begin booking in catch-ups with friends and family later in the year, once lockdown lifts.
Flowerbx canary Dutch tulip: £40, Flowerbx.com
Why not mark the occasion by sending a special woman in your life a bunch of flowers? Flowerbx is taking part by donating £5 from the sale of any yellow flowers to the Prince’s Trust for the #ChangeAGirlsLife campaign, from now until 8 March. We love these seasonal vibrant tulips that will brighten up any room.
The pandemic has had a hugely adverse effect on young people, according to the Trust’s Young People in Lockdown report, which found that 53 per cent of young women aged 16 to 25 say their anxiety levels have increased as a result of the pandemic.
It works with people who have grown up in the care system, been involved with the criminal system, endured long-term unemployment or are victims of sexual abuse. Offering long-term support, it focuses on providing young people with the skills and resilience to better their futures and benefit their community through tailor-made programmes. Its current aim is to raise £10m over the next five years to help the lives of 6,500 young women.
For more things, you can do to learn and raise awareness for IWD, read our guide to the best books to read that inspire change this International Women’s Day