International Women's Day: Rallies for equal rights take place around world

A strike on International Women's Day
A strike on International Women's Day

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Story highlights

  • Only 50% of working age women are represented in the labor force globally, UN says
  • "A Day Without a Woman" strike encourages women to take day off work
  • Irish abortion rights activists wear black in a day of action dubbed "Strike 4 Repeal"

London (CNN)Women around the world are marking International Women's Day on Wednesday, with some wearing red to work and others taking the day off to go on strike or join rallies calling for equal rights.

International Women's Day, which started in the early 1900s, is an annual celebration recognizing women's economic, political and social achievements. It also serves to highlight the ongoing struggle for gender equality worldwide.
Thousands rally for International Women's Day in Melbourne.
This year, the United Nations is calling on governments to make national commitments that address the challenges still holding women and girls back. Only 50% of working age women are represented in the labor force globally, compared to 76% of men, according to the UN. Their initiative, "Planet 50-50," aims to make gender equality a reality by 2030.
    "Denying the rights of women and girls is not only wrong in itself," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Monday. "It has a serious social and economic impact that holds us all back. Gender equality has a transformative effect that is essential to fully functioning communities, societies and economies."

    'A Day Without a Woman'

    Crowds descend on Washington for the Women's March in January.
    In the United States, some women are taking the day off from paid and unpaid labor in a strike billed as "A Day Without a Woman." The action is aimed at showing the economic importance and impact of women on society. It was organized following the Women's March on January 21, which saw huge crowds of demonstrators rally in Washington, DC, and around the nation, in a backlash against US President Donald Trump on his first full day in office.
    Trump posted two tweets on Wednesday marking International Women's Day, asking others to join him in "honoring the critical role of women here in America and around the world."
    Across the pond, British Prime Minister Theresa May hailed International Women's Day in Parliament, announcing the government's pledge of an additional £20 million ($24.3 million) to support organizations working to tackle domestic violence and abuse.
    "As we celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women both here and around the world ... we also redouble our efforts to tackle the problems that women all to often still face," May said.

    Women go on strike around the world

    American women aren't the only ones taking to the streets.
    In Ireland, where abortion is illegal in almost all circumstances, women and abortion rights activists wore black in a day of action dubbed "Strike 4 Repeal."
    Thousands were expected to rally across the country, urging the government to put forward a referendum to repeal Ireland's eighth amendment -- a measure that places the right to life of an unborn child on equal footing with the right to life of the mother. The amendment prohibits abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or ill health of the mother, allowing it to be considered only when a woman's life is in immediate danger.
    Abortion rights activists protest in Dublin.
    Clare Brophy, a 30-year-old PhD student, said that she came out to strike for a referendum.
    "In the eyes of Irish law, I'm equal to an unborn fetus. I'm not," Brophy said.
    In Australia, thousands of demonstrators attended a rally in Melbourne, demanding economic justice and reproductive rights for women around the world.
    In the Philippines, members of the women's group Gabriela Party marched to the US embassy in Manila carrying signs calling for employment and discrimination reforms.
    Members of women's group Gabriela march in Manila.
    A Women's Day protest caused chaos and delays in Rome, leaving some Italian commuters stranded. While not everyone welcomed the disturbance, one nun voiced her support.
    "It's true that women are paid less and don't have access to the same positions and work opportunities that men do," Sister Ursula from Poland said. "This is not right because women and men are equal. God created man and woman to complete each other, with dignity and equality."
    Young Indian women perform the 'Giddha' dance during Women's Day celebrations in Amritsar.

    Putin congratulates women on holiday

    International Women's Day is an official holiday in more than 100 countries, including in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin marked the occasion with a speech congratulating women on state television.
    "You care day and night for your children, grandchildren and your family. Even today, on International Women's Day, you are still caught up in your routine, working tirelessly, always on time. We often ask ourselves, how do they manage it all?" Putin said.
    "We will do our utmost to surround the women we love with care and attention, so that they can smile more often," Putin added.
    The Russian President traveled to a perinatal center in the western Russian city of Bryansk for the holiday -- emphasizing the more traditional roles for women celebrated in the country, such as motherhood.
    In Moscow, a group of feminist activists were detained after protesting by the Kremlin walls, holding a banner reading: "Men have been in power 200 years, down with them!"