International Women's Day highlights why we need to keep pushing for equality, writes Natalie Arnold, Project Coordinator with our Connecting Classrooms team

In the wake of the #MeToo campaign and the UK women’s votes centenary, it seems like 2018 is a big year for equality. Next up on March 8 is International Women’s Day – an opportunity to bring these strands together and #PressforProgress, the theme of this year’s celebration.

At the British Council we'll be joining the action by encouraging employees to host special events throughout our locations around the world, including in our Edinburgh office where I'm based. The activities include: 

  • Lunch and Learn sessions – a chance for colleagues to get together and discuss relevant topics around the ongoing struggle for women’s emancipation. Suggested themes include political and social participation, as well as economic participation and reproductive rights. 
  • Round Table and Q&A sessions – similar to the lunch and learn, these involve a group discussion around the theme #PressforProgress, but are based on invited speakers from a range of sectors, such as government, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, media etc., particularly if they have a link with the British Council or a particular interest in gender equality. The discussion can then centre on experiences, challenges and triumphs, as well as ideas for a range of actions that will support progress.
  • Photo exhibitions of up to 10 women from each country or region that have been key to gender equality. These exhibitions can then be used as a topic for discussion in many of our English teaching centres across the world.
  • Selfie cards, available on the International Women’s Day website. Let’s not forget to put #PressforProgress on the social media agenda! There are many resources online, including International Women’s Day-themed selfie cards for individuals or organisations to use. Look out on our twitter feed @BCScotland for pics on the day.

For me, this year’s occasion feels like a chance to celebrate all that has been achieved for gender equality in the last hundred years – and to look ahead at what still needs to be done.

We’ve certainly made progress, from women having no vote at all to having equal rights, representation in Parliament and a much increased presence in public life. However, it’s clear that the goal is far from achieved – from the gender pay gap to workplace discrimination to the #TimesUp campaign – and we need to keep pushing for equality, to the benefit of not just women but wider society.

As Michelle Obama so distinctly puts it, "No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens"

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