Blog: International Women’s Day is more important than ever

After the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on women, and as the war in Ukraine sees women and children flee – or stay to fight – we need to regain the progress toward equality

graphic of five diverse women for International Women's Day

UNISON is the UK’s largest women’s organisation and that’s one of the reasons why equality is at the heart of everything we do.

We mobilise our members in support of women’s issues here and across the world, and International Women’s Day, held on 8 March, is one of many opportunities throughout the year to celebrate the achievements of women and girls across the globe in every part of society.

The history of women’s struggles for gender equality and equal rights is long and inspiring.

Many will feel that it is hard to celebrate right now. We’ve just had two years of a traumatic pandemic that disproportionately affected women at work and at home.

And in the last few days, a vicious invasion of Ukraine has sparked a humanitarian crisis with mostly women and children fleeing for their lives, or choosing to stay – fighting or working on the frontline.

It is the long, hard work of our union and the wider trade union movement to draw in every single person who has our shared aims of equality, peace, and social justice. And it’s at times like these, that we should remind ourselves of how far we’ve already come.

Towards the end of the 1800s, women began protesting for the vote and against appalling working conditions.

The famous Match Girls strike at Bryant and May’s match factory in East London, where 1,400 women and teenage girls were subject to low pay for a 14-hour day, cut even more if they talked or went to the toilet, and ‘phossy jaw’, a horrible bone cancer caused by the cheap type of phosphorus in the matches.

They garnered public support and sympathy, forcing the company to improve conditions.

The lengthy 1968 equal pay strike at the Ford Factory in Dagenham triggered the passage for the Equal Pay Act and, to this day, UNISON women in Glasgow are continuing their battle for equal pay at the council.

Today, it’s more important than ever that women make a big noise about International Women’s Day.

Women need to regain the progress towards gender equality lost during the pandemic and defend women against attacks on their rights across the globe.

That’s why, this year, we are focusing on Building safe and healthy workplaces for women and Defending women’s reproductive rights and next week, you can join our webinars on both these issues, to discover more.