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by World Music Network March 07, 2012


International Women's Day: 8 March

Every year on 8 March, the world celebrates International Women’s Day (IWD). The celebration provides a common day for globally recognising and applauding women’s achievements as well as for observing and highlighting gender inequalities and issues. 

2012 Theme: Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures

If every International Women's Day event held in 2012 includes girls in some way, then thousands of minds will be inspired globally. Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures is just one of the many 2012 themes that has been widely used by hundreds of organisations including schools, universities, governments, women’s groups and the private sector. Each year the United Nations declares an overall International Women's Day theme. Their 2012 theme is Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty. Many organisations develop their own themes that are more relevant to their local contexts. For instance, the European Parliament's 2012 theme is Equal pay for work of equal value.

There are too many female artists whose creativity continues to be repressed, compromised and silenced – Songlines

However, where are all the women in music? If we turn to look at the music industry there is a distinct lack of gender balance in many fields of music. In 2010, women made up only 14% of the writer membership of PRS for Music (the Performing Rights Society of composers, songwriters and music publishers) and, at the 2010 BBC Proms, women wrote just 4.1% of the music performed. As a result, the PRS for Music Foundation launched a unique funding opportunity in 2010 which invited women music creators to apply for support. They aimed to break down the assumptions and stereotypes within the music industry by encouraging role models for future generations. 

One of the fields of music where gender imbalance is most noticeable is the field of classical music; composing, conducting and orchestral playing professions are particularly male-dominated. Of course, the issue is not limited to classical music: among short-listed albums for the Mercury Music Prize, those by men outnumber albums by women by more than 2:1.

This weekend sees an opportunity to address issues in gender representation at Southbank's WOW Festival (Women of the World). The International Women's Day Gala at the BFI is also being held on 8 March. Nevertheless, in addition to the Southbank activities, Equator's Women of the World Festival sees three female performances at RichMix, London. The performances celebrate a collaborative festival that promotes womens' music, performance, literature and art from around the world. The performers include Carmen Souza, Eve Pollard, Mor Karbassi, Najma Akhtar, Jyotsna Srikanth and the WOW Orchestra. These artists will also be touring in Birmingham and Kent. 

As well as raising issues of inequality, International Women's Day is clearly the time to celebrate the achievements of women worldwide. Here is a video of Carmen Souza in celebration of International Women's Day.