British singers Annie Lennox and Paloma Faith were joined by actress Gemma Arterton at a march in London to demand respect for women’s rights.
Hundreds of feminists, including some dressed like the suffragettes of the early 20th century, marched from city hall to Westminster.
Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and her daughter Laura also marched in the British capital.
“The suffragettes of old would say that the vote was only ever the beginning,” Helen Pankhurst said.
London-based Amnesty International marked the day by calling for an end to the abuses still endured by women and girls 20 years after the signing of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
“Women and girls continue to suffer gender-based violence and other human rights violations in the belief that they were justified by tradition, custom or religion, such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and crimes committed in the name of so called ‘honour,” the Amnesty International said.
In Washington, President Barack Obama called for protecting the right to education of girls and teenagers around the world.
“Women and girls are human beings, full and equal in rights and dignity. They deserve to be treated that way, everywhere, every day,” Obama said.
Obama is the father of two teenagers, Sasha, 16, and Malia, 13.
“This gap between women’s inherent value and how many of them are treated every day is one of the great injustices of our time. On this International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to closing that gap,” the president said.
Pope Francis, meanwhile, praised the role played by women in societies around the world and said a world in which they were marginalised was “a sterile world”.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet signed into law a bill creating the Women’s ministry, calling the Cabinet department “a new institution, more robust, with more tools” than other agencies.
More work must be done to “modify minds and hearts that keep an unjust system” in place, the president said.
Meanwhile, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday called for gender equity and decried violence against women as the government said it has initiated one-stop crisis centres that will provide assistance to women who face violence in any form.