IN 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights. Tomorrow – March 8; now known as International Women’s Day (IWD) – marks the global celebration of this event.

Officially celebrated for the past 48 years, it is a day for society to gather, reflect, and honour what has been accomplished towards achieving equal rights across the globe.

A recent documentary on The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland – a co-production by The Open University and BBC Scotland – put a spotlight on some of these accomplishments achieved by women in Scotland from the 1960s and up until today (and I can only recommend watching it, if you have not done so already).

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So, tomorrow – and beyond – I thank those women who made it possible for me to even work in the profession I am in; those that enabled others to join other industries for so long closed off to us, who pushed for recognition of their skills and abilities, those that secured leadership positions and paved the way to show us coming generations that we too can be at the helm, and those that have championed for our rights to equality.

Finally, I thank those women currently beside me day-to-day. I would not be where I am were it not for several amazing women who to this day have offered their advice and support. The solidarity I have felt so frequently has been such a boost to my life and career.

However, this day is not just for reflection on what has gone well. Of course, these achievements are worth celebrating but, as this last year has shown us, so much more needs to be done.

Not only do stark pay gaps continue to exist – the difference currently sitting at around 12 per cent according to a report by the Scottish Parliament; half of what it was in 1997, but a big difference for those at the bottom end of the scale, nonetheless – there has also been a continuation of entrenched stereotypes, discrimination and violence in the last year.

One shock event was the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which enshrined access to abortion services as a federal right in the United States. Worryingly, potentially emboldened by the US Supreme Court decision, anti-abortion activism and protesters outside hospitals and clinics, have become ever more of a constant fixture locally, too.

So many women have faced gruesome posters, direct harassment or verbal assaults, or false medical information from anti-abortion campaigners when trying to access treatment, while consultation around the proposed introduction of buffer zone legislation – preventing such protests – continues.

More recently, the anniversary of the murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens poignantly is March 4. It was her death that sparked outrage and calls for change. The Met said it would deliver, yet earlier this year its chief, Sir Mark Rowley, had to apologise for the force’s failings after officer David Carrick pleaded guilty to 49 offences – including 20 counts of rape, while adding that the Met was currently investigating 1,000 sexual and domestic abuse claims involving about 800 of its officers.

HeraldScotland: Wayne Couzens is serving a whole-life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in March 2021Wayne Couzens is serving a whole-life sentence for the kidnap, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in March 2021 (Image: Newsquest)

More violence continued in Scotland, too. According to supporting charity Zero Tolerance, 2,498 crimes of rape and attempted rape, and 5,359 crimes of sexual assault, and 64,807 incidents of domestic abuse were recorded by Police Scotland in 2021-2022.

Abuse has not just happened offline. Online harassment has been a continuing feature of recent times, too; so much so that the United Nations have made it their theme for IWD this year.

Recently resigned First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, sharing her worry on how this will discourage women from going into politics during an IWD sessions at Holyrood last Saturday, said that sexism and misogyny are not new phenomena, but are heavily amplified by social media – leading to an environment “more hostile” than she previously experienced.

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It was the internet too that helped give rise to the social media influencer Andrew Tate, who frequently spouted misogynist views alongside a flashy lifestyle, and gained millions of followers – including a rise in support from schoolchildren, leading to growing concerns from teachers. His popularity showed how quickly damaging gender stereotypes, despite years of fighting them, can spread and become mainstream.

Finally, the existing and future rights of lesbian, non-binary, and transwomen – who all already face so many other barriers and a rise in hate crimes against them – have been heavily debated and their existence thrown into question since the Gender Reform Bill and the SNP leadership race’s initial focus on social issues – most notably Kate Forbes’ views on equal marriage and that she would have voted against legislation implementing it in 2014.

This list is by no means exclusive or exhaustive. A lot has happened in the 365 days since we last marked IWD, and so many other things will have occurred under the radar. However, it is days such as IWD and others such as the 16 Days of Action against Gender Based Violence marked in November that bring these issues to the forefront.

They are days companies, organisations, and people show their support towards the cause and eradicating these inequalities and violent events. That is the point of awareness days after all.

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However, too often they are also a slap in the face for those that campaign all year round. For myself, and many other women, the issues discussed on IWD are part of our day-to-day. Too many of us are pushed towards activism not just through solidarity but lived experience.

I am not a pessimist – cultures are created and we have the power to change them; the achievements of other women have filled me with hope that there is a possibility for just that.

Still, receding support outside awareness days stalls such progress. What this year – and previous years – have shown us is that there is no place for tokenistic gestures on awareness days, societal complacency, or ambiguity from politicians.

What we need is more support – support from men, organisations, and institutions; not just tomorrow but all year round.

Women who changed modern Scotland have proved change is possible, but more needs to happen, and I hope it will.

Daniella Theis is Scottish Student Journalist of the Year