International Women’s Day gets underway with a collective hug


March 8 (UPI) — People around the world are being urged to mark International Women’s Day on Wednesday by giving themselves a hug and sharing it — on social media, in a video or by other means.

IWD said the public shows of participants’ pledge to embrace this year’s theme of equity would “encourage others to help forge an inclusive world,” the official website for the annual event said.


“The aim of the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme is to get the world talking about ‘Why equal opportunities aren’t enough,'” the website reads.

“People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.”

Events in the United States include an online Bike Ride for Equity, Inclusion and Positive Social Change Tuesday through Sunday, a daylong virtual festival by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and an African Union Mission to the U.S.A session on The State of Black Women in the Diaspora.


As events got underway, there was a stark reminder of the hurdles facing women in some parts of the world from the United Nations in Afghanistan which renewed its call on the country’s Taliban administration to row back from its obsession with stopping girls and women from going to school or work.

“Since August 2021, the Taliban de facto authorities have demonstrated an almost singular focus on imposing rules that leave most women and girls effectively trapped in their homes,” said Roza Otunbayeva, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

These restrictions violate human rights and fundamental freedoms protected by instruments and treaties to which Afghanistan is a signatory — breaches that damage the country’s prospects of recovering from decades of war, she said.

“Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world regarding women’s rights, and it has been distressing to witness their methodical, deliberate, and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere.”

Gender inequities IWD is pushing to be remedied in the western world include the gender pay gap between men and women and workplace discrimination that prevents women from rising to the most senior levels in business.


In a special message, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that while IWD celebrated the achievements of women and girls across all walks of life in all corners of the world there was still a long, long way to go.

“We also recognize the enormous obstacles they face — from structural injustices, marginalization, and violence, to cascading crises that affect them first and worst — to the denial of their personal autonomy and rights over their bodies and lives,” he said. “Gender-based discrimination harms everyone, women, girls, men and boys. International Women’s Day is a call to action. Action to stand with women who are demanding their fundamental rights at great personal cost.”

Guterres called for action to secure “protection against sexual exploitation and abuse. And action to accelerate women’s full participation and leadership.”

Guterres also called attention to the impact of technology which he said could open up access to education and opportunities for women and girls, but could also be used to amplify abuse and hatred.

He added that women made up under a third of the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and maths, warning that when women were under-represented in developing new technologies, discrimination may be “baked in from the start.”


Urging increased women and girls’ representation, Guterres said their exclusion from the sector had shaved an estimated $1 trillion from the GDP of low-and-middle-income countries in the last decade, a figure that without action could rise to $1.5 trillion by 2025.