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  • Writer's pictureEsther Teidou Ogriki

International Equal Pay Day: The Past, Present, And Future

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

International Equal Pay Day (IEPD), celebrated annually on September 18th, is a day that highlights the gender pay disparity as a symbol of inequality. It is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the equal pay movement and push to close the gap between men and women.

Women have continuously fought for their rights, especially the structural and institutional disadvantages. Historically, women have constantly been segregated in the workplace and this is only exacerbated with race, ethnicity, age, and disabilities.

Women are paid less than men in all regions, with the global gender pay gap estimated to be roughly 20%, with women earning 77 cents, where a man earns one dollar.

The gender pay gap has been an ongoing battle for years, from The Civil Rights Act (1964) which fought against discrimination against race, religion, color, and gender, to the Equal Pay Act (1963), which fought for equal compensation, highlighting the fact that the same salary amount be given for the same amount of work, to The Paycheck Fairness Act (2008) which was, unfortunately, never enacted due to poor governance.

Going as far back as 1996, the notion of International Equal Pay Day was observed by the National Committee on Pay Equity. The committee was made up of women and civil rights organizations dedicated to the elimination of wage discrimination based on gender and race. The goal of the committee was to ascertain equal pay for all. The National Committee on Pay Equity organized the first Equal Pay Day on April 11, 1996, which represented the need for women to work in order to be paid what men had made the previous year.

However, these efforts were not acknowledged until 2019 by the Equal Pay International Coalition in an attempt to raise awareness of wage and gender discrimination and to take action. The United Nations (UN) then joined forces with them in 2020 and September 18th was recognized as the first Equal Pay Day.

International Equal Pay Day, which began on September 18, 2020, commemorates long-standing efforts to achieve equal compensation for equal work. It strengthens the UN's commitment to human rights and the abolition of all forms of discrimination, including discrimination against women and girls.

Although there has been a lot of awareness raised over the years about the gender gap in the economy, little has been done, and the gap continues to grow. Laws have been drafted and passed in some regions concerning equal pay and the inclusion of women, but the implementation of these laws has proven difficult.

There is a raging historical and structural persistence of unequal rights for women and girls which gives them little to no access to limited resources, dissuading them from improving and showcasing their capabilities.

Wages and salaries and even promotions should be paid based on job roles, efforts, contributions, and as far as being accustomed to an organization's culture. Let's face it, if salaries were based on hard work, many women would have a vast increase in their wages because, often, women have to work twice as hard.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have made efforts to ensure that countries enforce gender equality through SDG 5 and its various targets.

SDG 5A: Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance, and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.

The SDGs recognize the importance of women and their contributions to promoting economic growth by encouraging productive employment and decent work pay. Equal pay will also promote more work and economic value.

The day may appear to most people as another progressive feminist act, but they fail to realize that women as a whole are generally affected. A clear example is period poverty, where feminine products are more expensive (especially pads and lady care products), making it harder for women to take care of themselves.

Eliminating the gender pay gap would help women take care of their children, especially those who are single mothers; this goes as far as healthcare services and insurance, and also for the sake of pensions for women who don’t have supportive families to lean on. Eliminating the gender gap will ensure equality and equity, which will in turn enhance development.

All is not lost though, the United States of America is some steps closer to closing the gender gap. The difference in earnings between women and men is now the narrowest on record, according to data collated from the Bureau of Labour Statistics. After the COVID-19 pandemic, women had the opportunity to apply for jobs and negotiate for better pay due to the tight labor market. This, of course, helped mothers and caregivers return to full-time work with better pay as well as improved childcare services.

Mandatory salary transparency also helps women pursue jobs that genuinely support equal pay. But although this is a steady progress, more can still be done in advocating for the rights of women as well as achieving social justice all around.

Considering the fast growth of the patriarchal system, IEPD is a big leap toward women's empowerment. When women are paid for their work, just as equal as their male peers, they gain more financial independence, and more decision-making rights which gives them the freedom to push against traditional and cultural norms that have little to no benefits for women.

IEPD is a great way to appreciate the contributions women have made during the course of history in the social, economic, and political aspects of society, and reminds us of our fight for equality, rights, and opportunities for women.

International Equal Pay Day, which began on September 18, 2020, commemorates long-standing efforts to achieve equal compensation for equal work. It strengthens the UN's commitment to human rights and the abolition of all forms of discrimination, including discrimination against women and girls.


Large philanthropic organizations, CSOs, feminists, and community-based groups, including men in powerful positions, are encouraged to have discussions and promote equal pay and the importance of equality for economic sustainability.

Youths are also advised to join this fight and contribute to these conversations because it not only affects the economy but them as individuals as well, and there are ways that it can be done.

1. Exercise Your Rights: Whether it be working as an intern in an organization or being in the work sector for several years, it is important to be aware of your rights and stand up to those higher-ups who step on your back. Exercising your rights to equal pay reduces the space for injustice.

2. Engage in Conversations: Engaging peers in conversations such as this will also help them to be more aware of these issues and how much they are affected.

3. Volunteer!: A little effort can go a long way. Volunteering with non-profits or any other organizations that fight for equal rights will not only make you grow as an individual but reaching out will encourage others, including the organizations to do more.

WRITTEN BY Esther Teidou Ogriki.

Ogriki Esther Teidou is a reader, writer, artist, and a young feminist who is very passionate about equality and seeks to explore ways, especially through art, to emphasize the strength of women and a healthy partnership between men and women in order to make positive changes in society. When she's not worrying about the backward mindset of Nigerian society, she spends her time watching Kdramas and enjoying the company of her friends and family.

You can catch her on LinkedIn, and Instagram: @_esther.og and @littleblackartist

EDITED BY Chizulu Uwolloh.

'Zulu is a writer, self-proclaimed bibliophile, lawyer, and international development professional passionate about social impact and showing people how they can create change in their communities. She is also the founder of Kurerie, a digital platform, and community that amplifies the voices of youth making an impact in their communities. Kurerie educates young people on how they can become active stakeholders in the achievement of the SDGs.

Want to connect with Zulu?

Follow her on Twitter, and Instagram, or connect with her on Linkedin!

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