Here in the United States, the month of March is dubbed Women’s History Month, but today, March 8, is globally known as International Women’s Day. You did not know this? Well, I don’t think you are the only one. Although it is an official holiday in almost 30 countries world-wide, with some countries giving all women the day off, as in China, Madagascar and Nepal, it is not that well known here in North America.
Believe it or not it has been around (known as International Working Women’s Day) since the early 1900′s. It started more as a political event with women demonstrating by rallying together to demand for voting rights, better pay and shorter work hours. March 8th became the official date of International Women’s Day by the United Nations in 1975 to celebrate women’s economic, political and social achievements, and at the same time, to continue the efforts for women’s advancements and to remind the need to ensure that globally ALL women gain and maintain equality in all aspects of their life.
Last year the US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, in support of the Council on Women and Girls created a report on American women and their well-being in five main areas: People, families and income, Education, Employment, Health, and Crime and Violence.
I am not sure if their findings are too surprising. Women are still more likely to live in poverty then men, with single mother families having the highest rate of living below the poverty line. Women also still have a low representation in the science and technology related fields, which generally pay higher. And, unbelievably, women still earn less than men by doing the same job.
The good news however, is that domestic violence has continued to decrease since the Violence Against Women Act in 1994. In addition, women are marrying later and having fewer children than in the past, with their first child being conceived later in life. On the educational front, a clear trend is being seen across the board in other developed countries as well – young women are significantly outpacing young men in their gains in attaining an education. Today more women are likely to graduate from college than men and are also more likely to hold a graduate school degree. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, this is not translating in equal pay and equal number of women in top ranking corporate positions. Sixty-six percent of the world’s work falls on women’s shoulders, yet they earn only ten percent of the world’s income*.
Although, we do have women astronauts and prime ministers and girls are allowed to attend university and have real choices about their future, the fight for equality is not there yet. International Women’s Day’s will continue to focus on these young women and celebrate what their bright futures may bring and at the same time bring attention to areas that need drastic improvement.
This year, the theme is all about Ending Hunger and Poverty. Almost 1000 events have been organized worldwide. The reason for the focus is that, as the above study has proven, more women live below the poverty line and carry the heaviest burden on feeding themselves and their children. Globally, one in seven people will go to bed hungry tonight*. It is not uncommon for these mother’s to go to bed hungry so their family can eat instead. In this day of age this seems incomprehensible since logically there is enough food in the world to feed everyone.
As I was writing this piece I thought, how sad that there has to be a Women’s Day to show how we have struggled (and continue to do so) for equality, peace and social development. But then I think how empowering it is to have a day that unites us ALL and helps mobilize a global force for meaningful change.
Today is a day to honor and praise women for their accomplishments. So make a difference, think globally and act locally!! Make everyday International Women’s Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future of our daughters and all young girls are bright, equal, safe and rewarding.
If you would like to send a free e-card to a woman who inspires you Oxfam America, a international relief organization that creates global solutions to end poverty, hunger and injustice, invites you to do so.
So, what woman in your life inspires you?
*statistics from Oxfam America