Creative ways to mark International Women's Day 

Take a look at our ideas for marking International Women’s Day on 8 March to educate and inspire your pupils about gender equality

7 March 2023

The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, and the date has historical ties to the Women’s Suffrage movement. However, that isn’t the only topic to focus on this International Women’s Day (8th March 2023) - from exploring female leaders or literature and art with heroines and women-centred stories to practical awareness around gender stereotypes and being empowered to challenge inequality, these resources and tips focus on learning through arts and culture, discussion and creative expression.

1. Take a look at inspirational feminist speeches

IWD is an opportunity to discuss social change and encourage your students to advocate for the rights of women. If you teach in upper Key Stage 2 and higher, you could do this by using our Speeches That Changed the World Teaching for Creativity resource and frame it around gender equality. If you don’t have time for a series of lessons, try a short creative response like the ‘In Their Shoes’ or ’10-Minute Art Task’ activities from our Taster Cards (Secondary Set).

You could focus on speeches by women about gender equality such as:

2. Write some #BreaktheBias poetry

The theme for last year’s IWD was Break the Bias. Share this poetry example by spoken-word poet Anisa Nandaula with your students and ask them to write their own. Use the caption on the video as prompt to your students: “Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.”

You could use activities for the Teaching for Creativity Taster Cards such as ‘Five Line Poem’(Primary/Secondary Sets) or ‘Quick Thinking Poems’ (Diverse Arts & Literature Set) for a framework.

3. Explore women’s suffrage and the women’s liberation movement

Learn about women’s suffrage with the Museum of London’s Virtual exhibition on Votes for Women – you could ask groups to explore a different suffragette and present back to the class about them, use a Jigsaw discussion, or use it as an opportunity to practice inference skills with a framework like this one from Thinking Pathways. Explore objects from the museum and try some Teaching for Creativity Taster Cards activities such as ‘See, Think, Wonder’ (Primary/Secondary Sets), Hot-Seating or ‘Painting the Past’ (Diverse Arts & Literature Set).

Secondary schools might be interested in watching the film Suffragette (2015) – there are free class resources to accompany it from The National Schools Partnership. There is also a virtual Tour of the Houses of Parliament that focuses on Women in Parliament to explore as a virtual ‘school trip’.

The British Library has some resources to look at about the 1970s and 1980s women’s liberation movement, including oral histories, information about the movement and its impacts on politics and education and an online resource about Spare Rib, an iconic feminist magazine.

4. Celebrate women in literature and art

The International Women’s Day website has some resources for schools to get you started with a book club, resource pack and reading list. Check out our Teaching for Creativity Taster Cards on Diverse Arts and Literature and pick an activity focusing on a female artists/author.

The National Literacy Trust have some free school resources for IWD, or you could simply take a look at books that feature empowering stories about women – there are lots of lists out there such as this one from Penguin, and this one from The School Run.

Check out the artist profiles on Tate Kids – they come with a brief bio and an activity or reflection, such as Rachel Jones, Paula Rego, Lubaina Himid, The Guerrilla Girls, Lily Van Der Stokker, Etel Adnan, Rachel Whiteread, Gillian Ayres, and Sonia Boyce. They have a video about 5 female artists who changed the art world, too.

STEM Sisters education zone includes a range of free online teaching plans and resources using historical STEM women’s discoveries and lives as innovative ways of teaching KS2 science, maths and the arts.

5. Learn about what International Women’s Day means for your students

The IWD website has some really quick prompts of short activities if you don’t have much time and which are especially great for Key Stage 1 and 2 pupils – they would work well for the start of the day or wet break – e.g. writing an acrostic poem of a woman you admire, or drawing a cartoon strip with a girl as the ‘hero’.

Use the Dreamachine Schools resources to have discussions about your pupil’s opinions about International Women’s Day, why it is important and what changes they want to see in the world. For example, from the Global Citizenship Resources made in partnership with UNICEF UK: Our Right To Be Heard, Imagine a World, Knowing Our Rights, Together We Can Make a Difference and Our Voices in Connection – framing them slightly differently so the pupils discuss the rights of girls and women, and imagine a world with equality.

6. Discuss gender stereotypes

Oxfam have a pack that includes an assembly, quiz, activities and games to get young people learning and thinking about gender equality and any action they might like to take in response. The Scottish government have put together a bank of resources for educators to challenge gender stereotypes, address unconscious bias and promote whole-establishment approaches to equality.

You could also use IWD as an opportunity to explore Consent and Healthy Relationships, for example with our KS3 RSE resource using poetry to communicate what a caring and respectful relationship looks like.