Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day is also a call-to-action, bringing awareness to women’s issues and fighting for gender equality worldwide. 

International Women's Day

Empowered women, empower women.

Marked annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD) is one of the most important days of the year to:

  • celebrate women’s achievements
  • raise awareness about women’s equality
  • lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • fundraise for female-focused charities

The history of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900’s. The first official International Women’s Day was celebrated over 100 years ago on March 19, 1911 has been celebrated each year ever since. 

The first International Women’s Day came about when, in 1910 at the second International Convention of Working Women in Copenhagen, a woman named Clara Zetkin proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands and bring attention to women’s issues. 

The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, responded to Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval, thus creating International Women’s Day. Then, the following year, in 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland where more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, and hold public office. 

In the years and decades that followed, International Women’s Day continued to bring to light pressing issues that women faced, and fight for gender equality and rights. Finally, in 1975, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations and in 1996 the UN announced their first annual Women’s Day theme, “Celebrating the past, Planning for the future.” Since then each International Women’s Day has had a focus theme. 

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world“, which celebrates the tremendous efforts of women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some influential Latinas who have made history

Ellen Ochoa 

NASA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 8, 1993, Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go into space. Aboard the Discovery shuttle for a total of nine days, Ochoa conducted important research about the Earth’s ozone layers. Since then, she has gone on three space flights, and spent a total of 1,000 hours in space. 

In 2013, Ochoa went on to become the first Hispanic director, and second female director, of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas–another huge achievement for women and Latinas. 

Dolores Huerta 

Jay Godwin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Doing back-breaking work under the unforgiving sun, sleeping in rough shacks with dozens of men to a room, all for below-poverty-level wages; farm workers in the early 20th Century, most of whom were immigrants from Central America, had a hard, painful, unjust life. That is, until Dolores Huerta and others like her came along. In 1965, Huerta created the United Farm Workers, and organization that worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions for farm workers. By leading boycotts, picketing, protesting and lobbying, Huerta was instrumental in bringing about legislation that protects some of the most vulnerable people in our society. 


Known to the world as simply “Selena,” the pop superstar brought Mexican Tejano music to the masses. Selena, along with Rita Moreno and Gloria Estefan, was one of the few Latin pop stars who crossed over into the mainstream. She is known and one of the most influential Latin artists of all time, winning a Grammy award in 1993 and a gold record in 1994 with Amor Prohibido. Her music is loved by millions and it is said she would have become the next Madonna had her career not been tragically cut short. Still, Selena lives on as a cultural icon for Latinas, a successful artist, and a beloved celebrity. 

Julia de Burgos 

Bust of Julia de Burgos. (Ir2409, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Julia de Burgos was a successful published poet in her native Puerto Rico, though she struggled to get the recognition she deserved after moving to the U.S. in the 1930s. Her poems centered on themes that some considered ahead of their time, such as feminism and social justice. She also celebrated her identity as an black, immigrant Latina in her writing–all things that were outside the mainstream in early 20th-century poetry circles. 

Her bold and daring writing has inspired readers for decades and helped set the stage for many Latino writers to come. 

Maria Elena Salinas 

Maria Elena Salinas

Award-winning journalist, Maria Elena Salinas (Photo Credit: Gio Alma)

Maria Elena Salinas is the longest running female news anchor on U.S. television, and is the first Latina to receive a Lifetime Achievement Emmy. Dubbed the “Voice of Hispanic America” by The New York Times, Salinas has become a figurehead for the Latino community. 

She has always used her platform to cover issues that affect Latinos today, as well as being an active philanthropist, working to increase voter registration in the Latino community and helping Latino youth get into journalism. 


Melissa Harris-Perry women in media

Women’s History Month Women in media still lacking representation

The representation of women in media continues to remain inequitably low despite that our nation’s demographics is practically split in two –with 51% of females and counting.

Melissa Harris-Perry women in media

Melissa V. Harris-Perry, Host, MSNBC’s ‘Melissa Harris-Perry’ at The Apollo Theater on January 18, 2015 in New York City. Credit: Shahar Azran via Getty Images.

A few days ago, progressive women  were outraged with the disguised firing of Melissa Harris-Perry after an email in which Harris-Perry protested her treatment by network leadership was released publicly on Feb. 26. MSNBC officially let her go, ending an impeccable era of diversity representation at the media group.

Media has become a feud of fewer voices repeating the same mediatic message, where diversity of opinion is even less abundant than gender, ethnic or racial diversity.

Although social media has made strides in the way we connect to information presently, traditional media continues to be the most powerful means to distribute information and ideas. Large parts of the population continue to trust in TV, radio and print media to access their information daily.

The message, however, is driven by very specific interests, not only in the “what is delivered” but also in the “who delivers it.” Not surprisingly, white males continue to dominate the scene in media. Here are some numbers provided by the Women’s Media Center:

  • By a nearly 3 to 1 margin, male front-page bylines at top newspapers outnumbered female bylines in coverage of the 2012 presidential election. Men were also far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio.
  • On Sunday TV talk shows, women comprised only 14 percent of those interviewed and 29 percent of roundtable guests.
  • Talk radio and sports talk radio hosts are overwhelmingly male.
  • As newspaper employment continues to tumble, so does the number of women in key jobs.
  • Newer, online-only news sites have fallen into the same rut as legacy media. Male bylines outnumbered female bylines at four of six sites reviewed.
  • The percentage of women who are television news directors edged up, reaching 30 percent for the first time. Overall employment of women in TV news remains flat.
  • Obituaries about men far outnumber those of women in top national and regional newspapers.
  • Women comprised just 9 percent of the directors of the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2013.
  • Women comprised 39 percent of documentary directors whose work appeared at major festivals in 2012-13.
  • Across all behind-the-camera positions, females were most likely to be producers. However, as the prestige of the producing post increased, the percentage of female participation decreased.
  • Forty-seven percent of gamers are women, but 88 percent of video games developers are male

It is imperative that more women stand up to the challenge and claim their place at any media position. If you feel that your voice can make a difference, that the opportunity you have been waiting for has not yet presented, then this information is for you to take.

What is the Women’s Media Center offering?

Registration is now open nationwide for the Women’s Media Center’s Progressive Women’s Voices, the premier media and leadership training program for women in the country. Representing a range of expertise and diversity across race, class, geography, sexual preference, ability, and generation, participants receive advanced, comprehensive training and tools to position themselves as media spokeswomen in their fields, thereby changing the conversation on issues that fill headlines. Graduates join a network of alumnae who support each other in their media goals.

The training will take place on May 7 – 8 in San Francisco, California and June 4 – 5 in Denver, Colorado.

Application process for Women’s Voices

The Women’s Media Center seeks women who have something to say and are eager to dive into the media conversations on the important issues of the day. Are you the next Rachel Maddow? Do you want to become a political contributor who is called upon to serve as a strong progressive voice in the media?  Are you the media spokesperson for your organization and want to increase your impact? Apply for the WMC’s Progressive Women’s Voices program today! Criteria for selection include:

  • Identification as a progressive feminist who is a recognized communicator in your field
  • Demonstrated media savvy, political knowledge, ability to converse on multiple issues
  • Willingness and desire to promote yourself, engage in new media experiences, and reach media goals

WMC Progressive Women’s Voices starts with a highly competitive application process. Women who graduate from the program leave with a sophisticated understanding of the current media climate, what messages work best for different audiences, the most effective interview presentation and techniques.

Women representing diverse backgrounds, areas of expertise, professions, ethnicities, ages, geographical regions, and levels of experience are encouraged to apply (including those who have previously applied).

WMC’s PWV program is extremely competitive. Because of the high volume of quality applications, the Women’s Media Center cannot accept as many deserving women as we would like. Candidates who have previously applied will be rigorously and impartially considered.

The training is supported by the Women’s Media Center and is provided at no cost to those who are accepted.  Selected participants are responsible for their own travel and lodging.

How to apply

Please complete and submit this application form.  Deadline is midnight PST April 3.

(This information was extracted from the Women’s Media Center website. For additional information, please refer to the site.)

ahora te toca a ti Latinas in business Latina entrepreneurs

Women’s History Month Progress of Latina leadership in business and corporate

Since launching our initiative, we have interviewed and were honored with the presence of highly respected Latina leadership. Here’s a list of the Latina entrepreneurs and Hispanic leaders in the business and corporate worlds who visited our pages and shared their experience and wisdom about the progress of Latinas with our readers (by date of publication).


Suzanna SanchezSuzanna Sanchez, National President of the National Latina Business Women Association (NLBWA).

“As women, we have a hard time juggling all our roles, as mothers, spouses, professionals and business owners. Organizations such as ours stand behind Latino women in business to help them thrive as leaders. We support policies that would simplify their lives while advancing their economic power.”


Angelica-Perez-Litwin_LatinasThinkBigDr. Perez-Litwin,  PhD, a tech social entrepreneur and psychologist  founder of LATINAS THINK BIG

“With 1.4 million computer specialist job openings expected in the U.S. by 2020, and Latinas as the fastest growing female population in this country, it is imperative that we support and advance Latinas in technology and across STEM fields.”



Angela Franco GWHCCAngela Franco, Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.

“ Some well-educated first generation Hispanic business owners, especially from Mexico, have opened their businesses in Washington looking for opportunities to work and engage in federal and state contracts. However, they might lack the experience some contracts require, or seniority in working with the agencies. Our goal is not only helping new businesses grow but also sustain the existing ones and help them succeed.”


Strayer Portraits -Dr Zoppi RodriguezDr. Irene Zoppi Rodríguez, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and the first Deputy Commander in the U.S. Army Reserve in Puerto Rico.

“Every human being has a purpose in life. Many discover it at the end of their lives, when it is too late, becoming a wasted opportunity. We cannot put time in a box so it is up to us to realize our purpose in life as soon as we can. By discovering that purpose, we can fulfill our destiny within that purpose,” Dr. Zoppi said.



Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar at the 2nd American Latino National Summit

Ana Maria Fernandez-Haar, Chair of the Board of the New America Alliance (NAA) Institute

“In 1999, a Latina Supreme Court Justice seemed but a dream. Justice Sonia Sotomayor has since inspired legions of American Latinas who can now see themselves in law careers. Latinas in business can have a role model in Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA), and a NAA member. Her inspiring story has already impacted Latinas in banking and now she’ll show the way from a larger platform.”


YazminDavidds_high_resDr. Yasmin Davidds, founder and CEO of the Latina Leadership Academy

“I have trained women in both, the organizational or corporate and the entrepreneurial environments. There are differences in every aspect of the negotiation process. In a corporation, the organizational culture designates how a woman can use her power, what is acceptable and what is not, and how much –or little- the organization is open to be questioned, so I always recommend being very cautious. Less evolved organizations have less appreciation for women and for that, they present a higher risk.”


Mariela Dabbah, Red Shoe Movement

Mariela Dabbah and the Red Shoe Movement

“Most women looking for empowerment usually end up trying to find a formula that worked for someone else without realizing that their characteristics and personality are likely very different from the person they are trying to emulate. The success of the Red Shoe Movement is based on providing tools for women to find their own definition of success and to follow their own style.


Maria_Contreras_Sweet_portraitMaria Contreras-Sweet, Head of the Small Business Administration (SBA)

“We’ve made real progress, but at the same time, Latinos have developed a special culture of entrepreneurship by starting our own enterprises. It’s remarkable to see the growth and strength of Latino-owned businesses. Latino purchasing power is expected to top $1.5 trillion by next year. This means if the American Latino market were its own country, we’d be the 11th largest economy in the world.”



vice president of research, evaluation and learning at The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Debra Joy Perez, The Annie E. Casey Foundation Vice President-Research, Evaluation and Learning Unit

“What matters to young people is to know that every one of the people they admire has had disappointments in their life. They have tried things and failed. WE have also failed. What distinguishes successful Latinas is that even after failure they try again.”



Pilar Avila, NAA

Pilar Avila CEO New America Alliance

“Less than one percent of Latinas hold high corporate and/or leadership positions. We need to build new connections, strengthen the relationships among members of the Caucus, and increase the presence of these leaders who bring particular skills to any decision table.”



Yvonne Garcia

Yvonne Garcia, National Chairwoman for the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA)

“This is the commitment we ask from top corporate management; there must be a mandate from CEOs to mentor and train our women in order to build not only technical skills but also to develop leadership strength and charisma.”



Solange Brooks, CalSTRS

Solange Brooks, CalSTRS Portfolio Manager

“Progress over the years comes from one’s own preparation. Women in general and Latinas in particular have increased their preparation, improved their education and are achieving in many areas in the workplace. In business, Latinas cannot allow any roadblocks to stop them from fulfilling their goals. You have to go over, under or around them, but you need to be strong, do the work and get that experience you need to be successful.”



Senate members voting against violence against women act

Women’s History Month a reminder of violence against women in numbers


 In celebration of Women’s History Month, we need to remember that women are still the target of constant multifaceted and complex forms of violence in a society that has grown to privilege power over human rights.

Hardly any country has escaped the increasing violence against women as a result of war and militarism as well as institutional or individual violent actions that trickle down to the most vulnerable: women, children and the elderly. Many live in fear and despair.

22 Senate Members who voted against the Violence Against Women Act in 2014. In red circles running Presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

22 Senate Members who voted against the Violence Against Women Act in 2014. In red circles running Presidential candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Photo courtesy Think for Progress)

When we think of violence against women, we usually concentrate on the physical act of viciousness but in reality, gender-based violence assumes many forms. From bullying and battering to subtle sexism, from acts of war against women to discrimination in the workplace, from rape to body objectification –in advertising and beauty contests–, from religious justification of women’s submission to the religious deification of women’s purity and chastity –sexual castration–, the intersection of gender-based violent actions with women’s rights is multifaceted and complex.

Numbers are powerful:

  • At least one in three women around the world will be the target of a physical act of violence in her lifetime, according to estimates of The United Nations Development Fund for Women. Many times, the abuser is a family member.
  • Among 10 countries researched in a study of the World Health Organization, it was reported that even-partnered women had experienced some kind of physical or sexual intimate partner violence regardless of their cultural setting; the range was from 15 percent of Japanese women to 71 percent of Ethiopian women.
  • According to UNIFEM , sexual violence has an economic, social, cultural and inter-generational impact during conflict and perpetuates insecurity in the wake of war. Women cannot hold their families together, access water and food resources; their children suffer of abandonment and isolation, and a disruption of their lives; women and girls are victims of sexual crimes, with resulting pregnancies giving birth to “war babies,” who are ostracized and rejected. For instance, it is believed that 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
  • According to Family Safe Media, pornography is a 97 billion dollar industry worldwide –compared to the US federal budget in Education that was 118 billion in 2013.
Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015. (Wiki Commons)

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015. (Wiki Commons)

Increasing militarism generates violence against women and children

Why choose the relationship between militarism and women’s rights? For many, that association might be distant and unrelated. However, the issue that is subtle in one society might be an everyday occurrence for others.

We tend to think of war as an armed conflict between two or more nations, in which trained soldiers fight to defeat their enemy’s army. However, contemporary wars or armed conflicts range from the drug wars against the favelas in Brazil to the Guatemalan genocide of 1,771 Ixil indigenous people or the femicide in Ciudad Juarez and other parts of Mexico. It also includes repression of Syrian female activists; the imprisonment, torture, rape and death of women in Congo, Chile and Argentina during military dictatorships or specific cases such as the recent murder of environmental activist Berta Caceres in Honduras.

According to the United Nations, military conflicts with 1,000 casualties per year are considered “major wars.” But cumulative casualties can become significant as conflicts extend through the years. In contemporary conflicts, 90 percent of victims are civilians –compared to civilians’ losses during World War I, estimated at 5 percent of total casualties–, most of them women and children.

Violence against women perpetrated by state actors

When states attack women instead of protecting and promoting their rights, they are using their military and legal powers to submit women and make them the targets of threats, violence and victimization in the name of state security.

In countries that are highly militarized or in war conflict, state violence against women can easily be spotted in the acts of physical violence, torture, imprisonment and terror.

But how do women spot the same in, for instance, the United States, a country with no domestic militarized conflict?

  • “Over the course of the year, 42 states and the District of Columbia enacted 122 provisions related to [women’s] reproductive health and rights. One-third of these new provisions, 43 in 19 states, sought to restrict access to abortion services,” reports the Guttmacher Institute in 2013.
  • Equal pay and job opportunities, appropriate labor legislation and same access to political and social opportunities and education are an aspiration but not a constitutional right for women in the U.S. Since 1923, the first time the Equal Right Amendment (ERA) was proposed to the Constitution and failed support from the states, advocacy groups have worked relentlessly to include equal rights for women.
  • The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 proposed by then-Senator Joe Biden, recognized the severity of violence against women but left out a number of cases included minorities, immigrant women, and gay, lesbian and transgender populations. In 2014, an extension to include such population was enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama. It only took 19 years to recognize the inequality suffered by these groups!
Houston Gun Show at the George R Brown Convention Center ( Wiki Commons)

Houston Gun Show at the George R Brown Convention Center ( Wiki Commons)

Violence against women and the role of small arms

From small children falling victims of accidents to women killed by their domestic partners or husbands, and from innocent pedestrians caught in gangs’ crossfire to victims of murder, rape, or burglary, the use of small weapons collects over 200,000 lives every year worldwide.

  • The number of small arms possessed by civilians is believed to outnumber three times those possessed by states and law enforcement. In 2007, the Small Arms Survey estimated civilians owned legally or illegally around 650 million firearms worldwide. Armed forces, on the other hand, held around 200 million, and additional 26 million were in hands of law enforcement personnel.
  • An estimated 90 firearms per 100 people are owned by civilians in the U.S. –the highest rate per capita in the world– followed by Yemen, with 55 weapons owned per 100 people. Both nations see gun ownership as a basic right and ingrained in the countries’ culture.
  • The presence of a gun in a home increases the overall risk of a person being murdered by 41 per cent; but for women in a domestic violence situation, the risk nearly triples, according to a report published by Amnesty International.
  • Another study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that the U.S. has the highest rate of female homicide among 25 high income nations. The firearm homicide rate of women is 11 times higher compared to the other countries included in the study.
  • According to NOW, young women, low-income women and minorities are at greater risk of suffering from domestic violence and rape and at higher danger of being murdered by their partners and spouses.
  • According to the National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence, Latinas face unique obstacles in addressing domestic abuse and threats to their safety and their children’s due to cultural and language factors such as lack of sufficient bilingual social workers, police and judiciary personnel; lack of financial basic knowledge and independence; and fear of their own deportation and/or separation from her children.

Sexual violence during and after war conflict

Armed conflicts and war increase violence against women including multiple rape, torture, sexual slavery and murder of women and girls in the war-zones, refugee camps, detention facilities and military bases, according to The Impact of Guns in Women’s Life report.

Violence against women in particular –and gender-based violence in general– is used as a way to dominate other ethnic or racial groups, in religious cleansing wars, military occupations, and any other kind of armed conflict. Instead of protecting them, many times those who hold authority execute these acts of violence against the civilian and military population.

  • The Amnesty International report on the Iraq war abuses shows that civilians in the combat zone were victims of violence by domestic as well as foreign armed forces –the U.S. included- as well as those detained in prisons and camps. The Abu-Grahib scandal was just an example of these actions.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) 2012 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members report disclosed in its survey dreadful data about the number of military members –women and men- that have been victims of some kind of sexual abuse by their peers or superiors during war as well as regular duty.Consequences of violence against women and other gender-based violence

The consequences of gender-based violence can extend to a lifetime for many women and girls who are abused psychologically, physically or suffer the stigma and punishment of society. Although we tend to feel horrified about cultures that put victims in isolation and ostracism, or silence them in judiciary processes as foreign and far from us –such as in India, Bangladesh or South Africa–, the culture of rape and violence against women is also common in the United States.

The U.S. culture tends to tolerate, justify, or even condone gender-based violence –as seen in two cases of sports abuses at Penn State University and Notre Dame. Those acts are not only directed against women and children but also gay, lesbian, and transgender populations.

Instead of prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators of the crimes, societal behaviors commonly include blaming the victim, presenting women as sex objects and trivializing rape. Alcohol and drug abuse are also common contributors to violent situations.

Girls and women are bombarded with advertising imposing strict beauty patters to be sexually attractive and desired by men. The US diet industry raked in $6.3 billion in revenue in 2015. Other created needs such as skin, makeup and hair products are also multibillion dollar industries. Pressure on image has extended mental and emotional behaviors such as anorexia, bulimia and other personality disorders among young girls and women.

How do we end this assault on women against the highest concentration of power and money of states, interest groups –including the gun industry and the military complex–, and corporations that obtain big profits and benefits from these actions?

“Decades of mobilizing by civil society and women’s movements have put ending gender-based violence high on national and international agendas. An unprecedented number of countries have laws against domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence. Challenges remain however in implementing these laws, limiting women and girls’ access to safety and justice. Not enough is done to prevent violence, and when it does occur, it often goes unpunished.” (Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women)