International Women’s Day

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“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights” – Gloria Steinem.

There are many reasons we should celebrate the women in our lives, and International Women’s Day is just one day we should be doing that.

When is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8. It has been celebrated as a holiday by the United Nations every year since 1975, though its origins are from before then. The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress”.

International Women’s Day is a day to raise awareness of issues faced by women all over the world, as well as celebrate the many remarkable achievements of women over the years in society, economics, politics, culture – and education!

Celebrating women in education

As teachers, we understand the importance of teachers and educators in our world. That’s why we’re teachers! But particular women in history have made a huge difference to learners and education all over the world who are often overlooked.

Let’s look at the accomplishments of these women to understand even better why we need to celebrate them.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala is truly an inspiration.

Born in Pakistan in 1997, Malala was forced out of school when she was just 11, when the Taliban came into power. She spoke out publicly about the ban on girls in schools and, as a result, was shot in the head by a masked gunman. She recovered and continued her fight.

She started the Malala fund, a charity dedicated to giving every girl an opportunity to achieve the future she wants through education. In December 2014 she became the youngest-ever Nobel Laureate, being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She has since graduated from the University of Oxford and travels around the world championing girls’ rights to education.


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Maria Montessori

You might be familiar with the education system which bears her name, but you might not know how she started this global movement.

Working as a doctor in Italy in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Montessori worked with intellectually challenged children, and developed a way of teaching which proved very successful. The Montessori system believes in the right of each child to be treated as an individual, encourages their drive to learn, and fosters the creative potential of children. In Montessori schools, students are encouraged to work on their own and in their own, while the teacher acts more like a guide than a teacher.

She opened a children’s home for all children and continued educating them with her methods. The Montessori method is now widely used around the world.

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Septima Clark

Clark, also known as the “Mother of the Movement”, was a pioneer in grassroots citizenship education.

She worked as a teacher in the South of the United States in the mid-1900s and became active in the civil rights movement. She participated in the lawsuit which led to pay equity for black and white teachers in South Carolina, as well as conducting civil rights workshops when she wasn’t teaching. Clark believed that literacy and political empowerment are linked so she taught people basic literacy skills, the rights of U.S. citizens and how to fill out voter registration forms.

Rosa Parks attended one of her workshops before she launched the Montgomery bus boycott.


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Savitribai Phule

Phule is often referred to as the mother of Indian feminism.

In 1848, Phule became the first female teacher in India. She opened a school for girls and established a shelter for destitute women, widows and child brides. She worked tirelessly for equality in her country, and faced much discrimination for her efforts.

She was declared to be the best teacher in the state by the British government in 1852.


Jane Elliot

Jane Elliot has one mission: one race.

She believes in exposing prejudice as an irrational system based on arbitrary factors. In 1968, Elliot devised the now-famous Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment as an anti-racism exercise. In this experiment Elliot, a teacher of an all-white third grade class in the United States, wanted to show what discrimination is like.

She split her class into two groups: those with blue eyes and those with brown eyes. She told the students that studies have shown that people with brown eyes are smarter, more civilized and better people than those with blue eyes. She gave the brown-eyed students special privileges and treated them more favourably.

The results of the experiment were telling: the students started to internalise and accept the characteristics they had been assigned based on the arbitrary colour of their eyes. In other words, the brown-eyed students began to believe they were superior, while the blue-eyed students began to believe they were inferior – purely based on their eye colour!

To this day she continues to fight against racism and discrimination.


In the EFL classroom we enjoy celebrating holidays, both national and international. In honour of these women and all the women before and after them, take some time to integrate International Women’s Day into your lessons.

International Women’s Day in the EFL Classroom

 International Women’s Day is an important day to to spend focusing on the achievements of women over time, the current gender inequality that is still present in all societies, and the future for women.

We’re not suggesting that you hold a march or demonstrate outside your school, but there are a number of activities you can include in your lesson in celebration.


If you access to the Internet, organise a webquest for your students. Assign each student or pair of students a famous woman and give them time to research her and her life. They can then present this to the class. Examples of women are: Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Emmeline Pankhurst, Serena Williams, Malala Yousafzai and Florence Nightingale.

Similarly, students could give a presentation of a remarkable woman from their country.

Information gap

Source biographies of women and print them out. Divide the readings so that each student in a pair has only certain information on the woman. Pairs must ask each other questions to find out all the information about the woman in question.

If gender roles were reversed

This is an activity for more Advanced and older students.

Ask your students to imagine what it would be like if gender roles were reversed in their communities. Use this to discuss the current situation women find themselves in every day and how your students could contribute to changing the status quo.

So while you should certainly take part in whatever International Women’s Day celebrations are taking part in your community, you can also take the opportunity to celebrate women in your EFL classroom.

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