First lady Chirlane McCray joined world leaders and celebrities to lead a rally for gender equality Sunday, in honor of International Women's Day.
Thousands of people gathered at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza near the U.N. for the annual march to Times Square calling for improved rights for women around the world. McCray applauded the crowd for coming out in the cold and showcasing the city's civil rights example.
"Today, you are marching in the footsteps of generations of feminists -- many of whom called New York City home," she said.
McCray, who is the chair for the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, noted that International Women's Day began in 1908 in New York when women protested for the right to vote and for higher wages and shorter work days. She said New York has taken strides toward closing the gender gap with programs such as universal pre-k and minimum paid sick leave as well as enhancements to city services such as the bolstered Office to Combat Domestic Violence.
Marchers said they were happy to see McCray and Mayor Bill de Blasio make women's rights a priority.
"It's an important agenda and I appreciate anyone who comes out to make a difference for women," said Nicole Constantine, 25, of the Bronx.
Although the march was centered in the heart of Manhattan, its message aimed at communities around the world. The crowds marched south carrying signs that called for equality and earned cheers from onlookers throughout midtown.
The rally recognized the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, which set forth a blueprint of actions and goals for gender equality.
Ban Soon-taek, the patron of the U.N. Women for Peace Association, said governments still needed to do more.
"We are here to sound the alarm that progress is too slow and uneven," she said.
There were a few famous faces marching in the crowd, including actors Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany. The couple, who started in "A Beautiful Mind," brought their son with them; Bettany said it was important that men join in the movement.
"I want fathers to teach their sons that violence against women is abhorrent and that gender equality is an important fight," he said.