Annie Lennox and the EQUALS partnership of charities invite you to Join the Big Inequality Debate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, on 8 March 2011.

Oxfam’s global ambassador and Barclays Woman of the Year, Annie Lennox OBE, has brought together a coalition of charities that champion women’s rights to ensure that the centenary of International Women’s Day (IWD), on 8 March, is a catalyst for celebration and positive change.

The EQUALS coalition comprises ActionAid, Amnesty International, The Fawcett Society, Oxfam, Plan International, Save the Children, The White Ribbon Alliance For Safe Motherhood, Women's Aid and Women for Women International. It is supported by an evolving partnership of organisations, including 1Goal, Bond, Merlin, Mumsnet, Object, One World Action, UKFeminista, VSO, WomanKind and Women for Refugee Women, and is collaborating with arts partners such as Birds Eye View, Brightwide, Britdoc/Good Screenings, Funny Women and the Southbank Centre.

Annie Lennox says: “EQUALS brings together the expertise of some of the most respected and influential charities that champion women’s rights. A lot has changed since 1911, but there is still a long way to go. Gender inequality continues to permeate all sectors of society, from health and education to politics, employment and culture. The EQUALS partnership aims to step up the call for a more equal world and galvanise a new generation of men and women to work together to make gender parity a lived reality here in the UK and worldwide.”

Around the world, millions of people celebrate International Women’s Day every year. In China women have the day off work, in Bosnia and Italy women are given gifts of flowers and in Cameroon women dance in the streets in celebration. Yet in the UK, the event has gone largely unnoticed…until now. This centenary year will be a turning point.

EQUALS is prompting a big debate about what inequality looks like 100 years after the first International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated in 1911. The coalition is inviting men and women to reflect on the progress that has been made in women’s rights, to discuss the inequalities that still exist, share experiences and ideas with people around the globe, and take action to transform the lives of those women and girls who remain excluded and violated. Throughout the week of 8 March and in the run up to IWD, EQUALS will be raising awareness through a series of innovative projects, events, multimedia initiatives and arts partnerships.

EQUALS will be prompting the public to discuss inequality at home, at work, at school, in community centres, universities and pubs. It will be running a series of flash-mob dance-offs around the globe and encouraging communities everywhere to host their own parties in houses, streets and workplaces. A nationwide poll will be commissioned to test perceptions and experiences of gender equality, and our social media content on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube will tap the pulse of popular opinion. A campaign film is also in production, and the coalition will be launching a 60-second film competition. Visitors to the website, www.weareequals.org, will be able to register a personal pledge for equality and access information about all the latest EQUALS events and activities from the end of February.

Haven’t we already achieved gender equality?

While much has been achieved over the last 50 years in terms of women’s rights in the UK, we have a long way to go. Times have changed, but sadly some of the key issues have not. Research shows that women in the UK and worldwide still face high levels of abuse, and violence and gender inequality continues to permeate all sectors of society.

Gender-based violence causes more deaths and disabilities among women worldwide, aged 15-44, than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war, and three million women across the UK experience rape, domestic violence, trafficking, forced marriage or other violence each year. Only 19% of the world’s parliamentary seats are held by women and men still make up nearly 80% of the House of Commons. Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, yet receive 10% of the world’s income and own 1 per cent of the means of production.

The full-time pay gap between women and men in the UK is equivalent to men being paid a full year whilst women effectively work for free after November. Only 24% of the people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news are female.

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