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International Women's Day 2012

Sudanese women and girls march in El Fasher, North Darfur, to celebrate International Women's Day. (file)
Sudanese women and girls march in El Fasher, North Darfur, to celebrate International Women's Day. (file)

United Nations International Women’s Day: a day of celebration and remembrance.

On March 8th, many nations around the world observe the United Nations International Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations, disregarding divisions, be they national, religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political.

It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, as well as for looking ahead toward what still needs to be done to improve the lives and opportunities of women.

The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. But even though women have made great strides since then, the day when women are treated as equal to men the world over is yet to come. Nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men.

Advancing the status of women and girls is critical to achieving successful outcomes for U.S. foreign policy priorities, including stability, prosperity, and peace. The U.S. National Security Strategy recognizes, “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity.” The evidence is clear. Research indicates that nations that invest in women’s employment, health, and education tend to have greater economic growth and improved health and education for children.

Empowering women as political and social actors can make institutions more representative and better performing. And a growing body of evidence shows that women offer unique contributions to making and keeping peace.

On International Women’s Day we celebrate and honor women. But it is past time that women receive the respect they have earned -- every day of the year.

“My message to all of them is to persevere, to be strong, to be courageous, to understand their worth and the difference they can make,” said Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer in a recent Voice of America interview.

“Our world is changing every day for the better because women are on the front lines of change, and I wish them a very happy Women’s Day -- not just on March 8 but every day!”