Wednesday March 8 marks International Women's Day, with festivals, concerts and exhibitions among the numerous events planned around the world to celebrate the achievements of women in society. The annual event has been held since the early 1900s and traditionally promotes a different theme each year, with this year's edition calling on people to #BeBoldForChange and push for a more gender-inclusive working world. Reuters photographers have been speaking with women in a range of professions around the world about their experiences of gender inequality.
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Cilene Connolly, 32, a Royal Mail postwoman, poses for a portrait during her postal round on a residential street in Coventry, Britain. "Fortunately, I haven't been faced with gender inequalities in my role as a postwoman," Connolly said. "I've had a great response from my customers for being a female delivering their post, women in particular are always pleasantly surprised to see a female face."
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Julia Argunova, 36, a mountaineering instructor, poses at 3,200 meters (10,499 feet) above sea level in the Tien Shan mountains near Almaty, Kazakhstan. "Physical strength benefits male colleagues in some situations on harder routes. But, women are more concentrated and meticulous. In general, women are better at teaching. My main professional task is to teach safe mountaineering."
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Ekaterine Kvlividze, 30, a military pilot captain, poses for a photograph in front of a Georgian Air Force UH-1H helicopter in Tbilisi, Georgia. "There were some difficulties at the beginning, I felt some irony, cynicism. I felt they did not appreciate me. But, thank God, during the last 10 years society has changed and nowadays a woman pilot is a normal thing."
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Pilot Maria Uvarovskaya poses for a photograph in the A320 flight simulator at the Aeroflot training centre at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow, Russia. "Much more can be done by the women themselves to solve such problems (gender inequality)," said Uvarovskaya.
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Sarah Hunter, 31, England women's rugby captain and RFU University Rugby Development Officer for the South West, poses for a photograph at The Stoop rugby ground in West London, Britain. "I think that if we're the right person for the right job in the workplace then so be it and the same for men," Hunter said. "I've worked for the RFU, and being what is deemed as a male sport perhaps in the past, I was welcomed into that environment and I personally haven't experienced gender inequality in the workplace, so I think that I've been very fortunate in the career that I've had and in the jobs that I've had that I've been seen for the person that I am and not for the gender that I am."
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Laila Sterk, 22, a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) female fighter, poses for a photograph in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasaka, Syria. "Before becoming a fighter, I was suffering from inequality in society. But after joining the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), I didn't encounter that anymore," said Sterk. "This is due to the fact that when men want to join the SDF they attend educational courses about women fighting alongside them. Therefore the woman fighter leads the military campaigns just like any man."
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Khawla Sheikh, 54, a plumber and a certified trainer, poses at her home's basement, where she gives plumbing training courses to other women, in Amman, Jordan. "Housewives are more comfortable to have a woman plumber in their house in the absence of their husbands," said Sheikh. "To tackle gender inequality, I think that all operating sectors must provide equal opportunities for men and women in all fields and each woman must believe in her capabilities and skills that she has in order to convince the others."
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Yolaina Chavez Talavera, 31, a firefighter, poses for a photograph in front of a truck at a fire station in Managua, Nicaragua. "In my early days as a female firefighter, men, my team mates, thought that I would not last long in the organisation due to the hard training. However, in practice I showed them that I am able to take on tasks at the same level as men. I think women must fight to break through in all areas, in the midst of the machismo that still persists in Nicaragua and in Hispanic countries," Talavera said.
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Serpil Cigdem, 44, an engine driver, poses for a photograph at Yenikapi station in Istanbul, Turkey. "When I applied for a job 23 years ago as an engine driver, I was told that it is a profession for men. I knew that during the written examination even if I got the same results with a male candidate, he would have been chosen. That's why I worked hard to pass the exam with a very good result ahead of the male candidates. In my opinion, gender inequality starts in our minds saying it's a male profession or it's a men job," said Cigdem.
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Deng Qiyan, 47, a mother of three and a decoration worker at contraction sites, poses for a photograph at an apartment building under construction in Beijing, China. "Sometimes (gender inequality) happens. But we cannot do anything about that. After all, you have to digest all those unhappy things and carry on," Qiyan said.
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Elizabeth Mamani, 36, a reporter at Radio Union, poses inside Bolivia's national congress building in La Paz, Bolivia. "When I started in this job, I did feel discrimination (from officials who controlled the access of members of the press to events). To counter discrimination in this profession, we as women, must excel, we must prepare ourselves in every field," Mamani said.
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Ana Maria del Verdun Suarez, 27, a police officer, poses for a photograph in the outskirts of Montevideo City, Uruguay. "More women should be able to have jobs that traditionally were considered only for men. I believe that discrimination comes sometimes from all of us, it comes from the inside. There are already many professions that were exclusively male and are now performed by women," Suarez said.
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Samah Abdelaty, 38, a writer and chief of the investigations department at Al Watan Newspaper, poses for a photograph at the headquarters of the newspaper in Cairo, Egypt. "On the issue of gender equality in my field I do not remember any discrimination against me working in the field of journalism," Abdelaty said.
AMR ABDALLAH DALSH/Reuters
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Maxine Mallett, 52, a headteacher at Rutherford House School, poses for a photograph at the school's playground in south London, Britain. "The most stressful time of my career was when I had children. Women who return to work after having a child are sometimes treated with suspicion, as if they now lack commitment to the school when it is quite the opposite," Mallett said. "We need to remove barriers and support all. Having a fulfilling career should not have to be a battle that you have to constantly fight."