International Women’s Day

People across Europe and Central Asia celebrate women and girls’ efforts for equality in a COVID-19 world

Date: Wednesday, March 17, 2021

People across Europe and Central Asia marked International Women’s Day (8 March) this year through an impressive array of events and activities under the 2021 global theme, ‘Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world’. Across the region, forums, photographic exhibitions, light shows, and art displays were some of the events that celebrated the incredible efforts made by women and girls in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The events, which took place over several weeks around 8 March, also highlighted the remaining gaps and encouraged discussion and debate for a more equal future.

16 March

Kyrgyzstan showcases women’s entrepreneurship and leadership
Kyrgyzstan showcases women’s entrepreneurship and leadership. Photo: UN Women/Askhat Chynaly & Erkin Bolzhurov

Kyrgyzstan joined the global ‘Ring the Bell’ movement with the Kyrgyz Stock Exchange (KSE) dedicating its opening trading ceremony to an event focused on women in business. Meanwhile, rural women entrepreneurs from across the country showcased their products in Bishkek and Osh as part of the launch of UN Women’s ‘Buy from Women’ campaign. International Women’s Day celebrations also saw a national forum on women’s leadership and contribution to development, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Opened by former President, Roza Otunbaeva, the event brought together representatives from government, civil society, activists, and members of the culture and business communities both face-to-face and online.

12 March

Alina Kleytman, Oksana Lyniv, Tamara Trunova, Yuliia Fediv and Iryna Tsilyk holding their awards after the ceremony. Photo: Ukrainian Institute
Ukraine’s Women in Arts Award grows in popularity and influence. Photo: Ukrainian Institute

For the third year running, UN Women Ukraine and the Ukrainian Institute awarded Women in Arts 2021 winners. The laureates of the Award were announced on March 12, during the HeForShe Arts Week 2021.

In 2021, new elements were added to the Award, with the organizers introducing a new ‘Special Mention’ category. This award category is given to women whose activities cannot be assigned to any of the categories or who do not meet the formal requirements and criteria of the award, but whose contribution to Ukrainian culture is important.

10 March


As part of International Women's Day and the Generation Equality campaign, UN Women Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia collaborated with Eldana Satybaldiyeva (aka Eldana FourEyes), a feminist influencer famous in Central Asia, and produced a joint video with a powerful message. The video showcases women as strong leaders in a variety of fields, and presents successful examples and role models. The video has gained more than 500 thousand views on Instagram and YouTube. You can watch the video on YouTube

8 March 

A 3D mapping on the monument to Princess Olga in Kyiv, which marked the beginning of HeForShe Arts Week 2021. The key image of the installation is the stars, which symbolize the inner flame of all artistic leaders. Photo: UN Women Ukraine
HeForShe Arts Week 2021 in Ukraine: Quarantine measures, online formats, decentralization of artistic events Photo: UN Women Ukraine

Bigger and better than ever before, the popular HeForShe Arts Week 2021 in Ukraine saw museums, galleries, cinemas and other creative institutions put on exhibitions, discussions, book presentations and much more to celebrate International Women’s Day. In the capital, Kyiv, significant buildings were illuminated with the HeForShe movement’s signature magenta colour. Meanwhile, a range of activities reaching a broad audience were held in the capital, but also Lviv, Chernivtsi, Dnipro, Sievierodonetsk, Zhytomyr, Soledar, Odesa and Kharkiv. With COVID-19 forcing creatives to find other ways to reach their audiences over the past year, the 2021 event saw new formats and ways for audiences to participate, with a number of events becoming more interactive or available online.

Equalcity takes visitors on a journey to equality.
Equalcity takes visitors on a journey to equality in Turkey. Illustrator: Hazal Kırıkçı, Creative Director: İlkin Eskipehlivan

UN Women Turkey launches an online platform imagining a city where women are equally represented. On, visitors have the opportunity to visit and envision a city where equal rights, opportunities, and inclusiveness are ensured in municipal services.

UN Women Turkey also launched the interactive tool called ‘Purple Map’, which is an easy-to-use guide that shows women centers, daycare centers, and gender-responsive municipal services of Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. The Purple Map interactive website is developed to respond to the different needs and priorities of women, men, the elderly, and all segments of the society through gender-responsive policies; and developing the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality’s services accordingly.

UN Women in Serbia together with the Coordination Body for Gender Equality in the Republic of Serbia, the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia and Embassy of France in Serbia marked this year's International Women's Day - 8 March with an exhibition featuring female leaders under the headline "When the world stopped, they didn't". Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: UN Women/Marija Piroski
Serbia celebrates women and girls’ remarkable efforts during the pandemic with a powerful exhibition. Photo: UN Women/Marija Piroski

This International Women’s Day, Serbia chose to celebrate the incredible efforts of women and girls’ to help their communities and wider society to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis. An exhibition opened by the Deputy Prime Minister showcased the stories of 10 women from different walks of life. Their stories symbolize and celebrate the countless stories of sacrifice and dedicated service made by women and girls across Serbia during 2020. After being on display in the Capital, Belgrade, for two weeks, people in other parts of the country will have the chance to see the exhibition as it tours the nation.

British Ambassador to Kosovo, Nicholas Abbott; UN Development Coordinator, Ulrika Richardson, and UN Women Head of Office, Vlora Tuzi Nushi, pictured with a young woman from Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities who received a laptop to facilitate her online learning. Photo: UN Women
Young women from non-majority communities join Acting President and UN Women to celebrate International Women’s Day in Kosovo. Photo: UN Women

Young women from Roma, Ashkali, Egyptian, and other non-majority communities from across Kosovo came together in the National Assembly this International Women’s Day. They had the opportunity to hear from inspirational women leaders within their communities and to see their own artworks on display in the Assembly. The young women had created the artworks as part of a new project funded by the British Embassy in Kosovo. The project is aimed at reaching those at risk of being left behind, especially as COVID-19 places a heavier burden on women and girls from non-majority communities. Read more.


A wide range of events across Albania saw celebrities, farmers, journalists, and government officials mark International Women’s Day.  For International Women’s Day, girls and boys in Albania changed their roles! Seven influential figures used irony to raise awareness and put a spotlight on issues women and girls face every day. These included: patriarchal norms, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, unpaid work, gender stereotypes, and more.

Women’s rights and the media were vital topics and the role of the Audiovisual Media Authority in monitoring cases where women’s rights had been violated has been discussed. The revision of the Journalists Code of Ethics has been proposed by including reporting on gender sensitivity and violence against women and girls, while also institutionalizing the relationship between editors/newsrooms and regulatory institutions. 

A new collaboration between UN Women and the Albanian Supreme State Audit aims to help implement gender equality commitments and monitoring of gender-responsive budgeting. Read more about the International Women's Day Activities in Albania.

North Macedonia’s popular International Women’s Day tradition takes place despite COVID-19
North Macedonia’s popular International Women’s Day tradition takes place despite COVID-19. Photo: UN Women

The oldest International Women’s Day tradition in North Macedonia – the Women’s Rights Nights – went ahead this year for the 12th time. The event, which has become a popular tradition, uses art and debate to discuss issues related to gender equality on and around 8 March. This year, the movies ‘Women’s Day’ and ‘Forte’ were screened online alongside a debate on the question: ‘Crisis are not gender-neutral: How women’s leadership influences gender equality in times of COVID-19?’. The international exhibition ‘Awakening 2’, with artworks by women artists, was also displayed. The event was organized by UN Women under the patronage of the City of Skopje and run by the Institute for Human Rights and Award Film and Video.

UN Women kicks off youth-led campaign #YOUthdemand to amplify young people’s voices in Europe and Central Asia. Illustrator: Burcu Köleli

The #YOUthdemand social media campaign got underway on International Women’s Day this year across Europe and Central Asia. The campaign’s aim is to unite and amplify young change-makers' voices across the region and the globe and put forward their ideas with the aim of influencing decision-makers. Co-created and led by youth activists in cooperation with UN Women, the campaign will use the prominence of regional activists, influencers, and opinion leaders to amplify a joint call to action: demand, change the world. Young people from across the region and the world will be encouraged to share their views.

Johanna Strömquist Ambassador of Sweden to BiH
Bosnia and Herzegovina use social media and online events to mark International Women’s Day.

“What is women's leadership to you?”. This is the question that social media users in Bosnia and Herzegovina were asked as part of International Women’s Day events in the country. The responses received highlighted the need to include women in the decision-making process and to advocate for gender equality in leadership. Meanwhile, online events saw participants from a wide range of organizations and fields discuss women’s empowerment, creating a safer environment, and promoting women in IT.