Annie Lennox, Kristin Davis and Scarlett Johansson launch Big Inequality Debate for International Women’s Day

Oxfam Ambassadors, Annie Lennox, Kristin Davis, Angelique Kidjo and Scarlett Johansson and invite you to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, on 8 March 2011 and make it a catalyst for positive change.  

Annie Lennox says: "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 centenary of International Women's Day is an opportunity to step up the call for a more equal world and galvanize a new generation of men and women to work together to make gender equality a reality."

While much has been achieved over the last 100 years inequality and discrimination is still a daily fact of life for many women – particularly in the developing world where the denial of women's basic rights is a major cause of poverty.

  • Women produce the majority of the world’s food but rarely own the land they farm. In Sub Saharan African women produce 80 per cent of the household food but they only own one per cent of the land.
  • Every minute a woman with no medical care dies in pregnancy or childbirth. The amount of money spent in the erectile dysfunction market is four times greater than the amount spent on maternal and newborn health in poor countries.
  • Women make up 80 per cent  of climate refugees - 20 million of the 26 million people estimated to have been displaced by climate change are women.
  • Two-thirds of the children denied school are girls and 64 percent of the world’s illiterate adults are women.

Oxfam Ambassador and actor, Kristin Davis, said: "In my travels as an Oxfam Ambassador, I have been amazed by the women farmers I have met in African countries. Women farmers grow most of the food in the poor countries around the world, often without having equal rights to the land. They are greatly affected by Global warming. These women hold the keys to solving global hunger if they are given a voice and equality in their communities."

Oxfam Ambassador and singer-songwriter, Angelique Kidjo said: “There’s a long way to go before every woman can join this celebration - of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide more than two-thirds are women and girls. But women are catalysts for change! Empowering women can help them to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty.”

Oxfam Honorary President, Mary Robinson, said: “There has been real progress on women’s rights in the 100 years since the first international women’s day. Yet millions of women around the world are still facing discrimination and inequality. Women and girls are on the move - they can’t wait another 100 years to win the fight for equality.”

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.

Oxfam and hundreds of organizations around the globe are prompting a big debate about what inequality looks like 100 years after the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911. We are 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. 

Oxfam will be prompting the public to discuss inequality at home, at work, at school, in community centers, universities and bars. We 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.

Read more

How Oxfam is celebrating the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day

EQUALS? Join the big inequality debate

Notes to editors

Oxfam is a founding member of the EQUALS coalition, with ActionAid, Amnesty International, Care International UK, The Fawcett Society, Plan International, Save the Children, The White Ribbon Alliance For Safe Motherhood, Women’s Aid and Women for Women International.

Contact information

For more information, please contact:

Anna Mitchell (Oxfam) : +44 1865 339157 / +44 7796 993288 / anna.mitchell@oxfaminternational.org