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March 8, 2022

FocusInternational Women’s Rights Day in museums : #BreakTheBias and more

As in previous years, ICOM is committed to promoting gender equality and celebrating social, economic, cultural and political progress for women.

« If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it ? » – Malala Yousafzai

This year is special. The theme of International Women’s Rights Day is a call to move beyond prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. At a time when we continue to experience the consequences of the global pandemic and while armed conflict, including the conflict in Ukraine, is mobilising the world.

Among the atrocities produced during this latest conflict, one in particular resonates with this day: last week, Russian forces burned down the Museum of Local History in the city of Ivankiv, northwest of the capital Kyiv. Among the damage, 25 paintings by Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko were destroyed. Of course, any destruction of cultural heritage is a disaster. But given the discrimination suffered by women artists in museums until recently, especially women from the early 20th century and before, we now measure the dual symbolism of this loss.

Today, more than ever, we want to focus on the consequences of this discrimination and how the work of memory carried out by museums in particular is a way to #BreakTheBias and to move society forward.

In this context, we would like to highlight the hybrid symposium organised by Varanger museum at the Steilneset Memorial. Varanger museum disseminates the history of the witchcraft trials at Steilneset, where 91 people were accused of witchcraft, found guilty and burned at the stake in the 17th century on the island of Vardø. More than 80% of them were women. Celebrated artist Louise Bourgeois created the installation and Peter Zumthor the architecture. The first comprehensive global account of violence against women, Feminicide: A World History, edited by French historian Christelle Taraud and published by La Découverte, France, is the backdrop for the Steilneset Symposium 2022 on Feminicide at the Steilneset Memorial on International Women’s Day in 2022.

We also focus on this initiative from Thailand: Women and Men Progressive Movement Foundation, in collaboration with Wunderman Thompson Thailand, invites visitors to experience the ‘Museum of First Time‘ (Please note that this content may be distressing); a Virtual Museum based on the true story of a domestic violence victim. The Museum of First Time is an immersive experience featuring a 360-degree view that simulates an actual environment and a real story from a real domestic violence victim.

That is why today, even more than in previous years, we join International Women’s Rights Day and relay this message: “Imagine a gender-equal world. A world free of prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. A world that is diverse, fair and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively, we can all #BreakTheBias.”

Follow the Twitter and Instagram feeds here live via #WomenInMuseums


Since 2017, ICOM has been promoting the role of women in museums during International Women’s Day through the hashtag #WomenInMuseums, which has become a hub in social media platforms to share and celebrate the work of female museum professionals, women artists and women in history. With this campaign, we aim at highlighting the many ways in which women shape museums, from shifting narratives to fighting for inclusion.