International Women’s Day 2018


In 2017, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report indicated that true gender parity is over 200 years away at the current rate of development.

We at NAWO think this is too far away, so we’re thrilled to support this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) initiatives happening across the world, led by our member organisations.

IWD 2018’s primary theme will be: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”, echoing the theme of CSW62, taking place later this month.

March 8th is the official International Women’s Day, but this is not simply a once-a-year event. Every 8th March kicks off a new phase in the fight for equality and, since part of this year’s focus is the #PressforProgress, it’s about individuals and organisations pushing for real change wherever they are, with the means available to them.

On this page is just a selection of some of the exciting things our members have going on in support of the milestone event, as well as a reflection or two on what the Suffragette movement means to them, since we are celebrating the centenary anniversary of women’s right to vote.

If there’s anything else you think we should include, please email:

Who are they?

​Sisters of Frida is a cooperative of disabled women, who want a new way of sharing experiences, offering mutual support and forming relationships within different networks.

In their experience, the barriers and multiple discriminations against disabled women have not changed, and Sisters of Frida feel they struggle to have their voices heard. This has led them to create a sisterhood: a circle of disabled women to discuss their concerns and ideas, share their experiences and explore intersectional possibilities.

You can read more about their fantastic work here.

What have they got going on?
On Sunday 11th March, they will be hosting a panel at the WOW (Women of the World) Festival, on the topic of: “Power & Protest: Art, Activism and Disability”
From leadership on human rights, to artwork informed by the politics of disability, disabled women are at the forefront of global grassroots activism. Come hear why any campaign for gender equality must include disabled women’s voices.
What’s more, Sisters of Frida will celebrate past disabled suffragettes who are not always known, such as​ Rosa May Billinghurst  and ​Adelaide Knight.
Rosa May Billinghurst used a hand-propelled tricycle to get around after being left unable to walk by a childhood case of polio. She founded the Greenwich WSPU branch, took part in protests like the window smashing campaign of 1912, and was thrown into Holloway Prison on multiple occasions.

“She did a lot for the movement and it’s regardless of her disability—she would have been doing things in the tricycle chair or not in the tricycle chair,” says Sheila Hanlon, an expert and historian at Cycling UK. Billinghurst reportedly used her tricycle to her advantage. “There’s loads of reports of her using her tricycle chair to basically ram the police at protests.”

Adelaide Knight walked using a stick. Knight became secretary of the WSPU’s Canning Town branch in 1906. “She had a minor disability, she was working class and she was part of a mixed race family, “ says Hanlon. (Knight married a Jamaican man in 1894.) “Among the working class women’s movement, she was hugely significant and she was one of the key organisers in her area.”

You can read more about these remarkable women here.
WHEN: Sunday 11th March 11.30am – 12.30pm
WHERE: Blue Bar, Level 4, Royal Festival Hall


Who are they?

Soroptimist International is a global volunteer movement working together to transform the lives of women and girls. It is a network of over 75,000 club members in 122 countries, working at a local, national and international level to achieve its mission of educating, empowering and enabling opportunities for women and girls.

What have they got going on?

There are multiple events going on across the world, held by its member organisations. Details of UK events can be found on the IWD page, under the ‘events’ section.

What’s more, this year, International Women’s Day falls just a month after the centenary of female suffrage.

To mark this occasion and highlight the personal impact that this change has on women even today, Barbara Dixon, Programme Director of Soroptimist International Great Britain & Ireland, has written a short piece dedicated to what the suffragettes mean to her.


What they mean to me…

The Daily Mail gave the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) the name Suffragettes as a derogatory term in 1906.


Women had been campaigning to get the vote for decades but it was not until the Suffragettes were formed that, following years of campaigning, 8.4 million women over the age of 30 were finally given the vote under the Representation of the People Act 1918.


They had to either be a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner or a graduate voting in a university constituency.


The act was a massive step in the struggle which started 86 years before when Mary Smith presented the first Woman’s Suffrage bill to the House of Commons in 1832.


These women made a stand and continued with their campaign despite intolerable treatment from the authorities, they were persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, forced fed and threatened with rape during captivity.


Their dedication epitomises what Soroptimism throughout the world aims to achieve, equality, respect and human rights.


The limitations of being able to vote illustrate many of the inequalities still prevalent in the world. Many women do not own land or property and are denied an education so very few would be eligible to vote.


Their courage and determination gives us the inspiration to continue the fight, not just for voting rights but universal parity and peace.