International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. International Women’s Day (IWD) has occurred for well over a century, with the first March 8 IWD gathering supported by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Prior to this, the Socialist Party of America, United Kingdom’s Suffragists and Suffragettes, and further groups campaigned for women equality. Today, IWD belongs to all groups—collectively—everywhere. This year, the emphasis for IWD is placed on pressing for progress for gender equality and inclusivity in all fields.

For many years, women and girls have played an important role in science and technology. But despite this, they are still underrepresented in STEM education and careers. Only 35% of girls enter further education in STEM subjects and many have little encouragement to equip themselves with the skills to thrive in these industries. This call to action has driven the tech pioneers from Vodafone to help change this statistic. In recognition of the United Nations International Women and Girls in Science Day, Vodafone announced that, with the support of not-for-profit social enterprise Code: First Girls, it will provide free coding training for 1,000 18-24-year-old girls across 26 countries.

In the same spirit, Legacy International is proud to announce the continuation of the TechGirls program for the sixth consecutive year. An international exchange program, TechGirls is designed to inspire and empower girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue deeper level of training in technology through hands-on skill development. TechGirls is packed with skill-development workshops and interactions with America’s most innovative tech professionals, as well as 50 hours of study at a Tech Camp. The program improves the participants’ ability to enter tech fields and gain access to higher education, as well as offering them a rich cultural immersion experience. There is a TechGirls multiplier effect—inspiring others in their local community to pursue STEM.

As with the STEM field, there is often limited acknowledgement and recognition for the invaluable contributions and participation of women in sports. There have been slow gains in increasing media coverage of women’s sporting events, securing bigger sponsorships for women’s teams and tournaments, ensuring equal pay for women in sport, and bettering support and respect overall. The International Women’s Day 2018 #PressforProgress Women’s World Sport Initiative will feature ambassadors and allies who actively promote women’s equality in sports—featuring latest news, accomplishments, issues and successes that forge forward women’s equality in sport. Additionally, the Women’s World Sport Initiative will be celebrating those journalists, broadcasters and media outlets that go out of their way to cover and champion women in sport.

An alumna of Legacy International’s Saudi Young Leaders Exchange Program (SYLEP), Lina Alessa has continued to work for gender equality in sports in Saudi Arabia. SYLEP is a multi-phased leadership experience for university students or recent graduates, to build leadership skills, civic responsibility, and appreciation for cultural diversity, community engagement, and volunteerism. The goals of the program are to promote understanding between the people the U.S. and the people of Saudi Arabia—preparing young leaders to become responsible citizens; contributing members of their community; and develop leadership skills among Saudi youth. SYLEP participants observe how individuals, non-governmental organizations, and governmental entities address community needs through public, private, and joint initiatives.

After returning to Saudi Arabia from her time spent in the U.S., Alessa established the Riyadh Ice Club. As a result, Alessa has strengthened leadership and communication skills among the youth who participate in her program, by developing basic ice-skating skills through classes for children and women. In 2016, during her program delivery period, Alessa held four lessons of ice-skating during a four-week period; recruiting six trainers to assist in the teaching process. Today, Alessa’s ice-skating program is still very active and has expanded the Riyadh Ice Club to host more events, while maintaining a strong emphasis on the development of leadership and communication skills to be implemented in and beyond the ice rink. For International Women’s Day, Legacy International is proud to be a champion of gender inclusivity and recognize the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and #PressForProgress.

Visit Legacy’s page on gender parity to see the work we have been doing.