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, without regard to 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. This year's theme is "Equal rights, equal opportunities: progress for all".
The UN first proclaimed March 8th as the Day for Women's Rights and International Peace in 1977. Since then, women have made progress, but they still have a long way to go. Nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men. The majority of the world's 1.3 billion poorest people are women. They receive 30 to 40 percent less pay then men for doing the same work. They also continue to be victims of violence worldwide just because they are female.
Because women have the potential to lift their families, communities and countries out of poverty, investing in them is the easiest way to improve the lives of the poor and to stabilize countries in turmoil. It is also one reason why U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has made women's issues a focus of U.S. policy:
"If half of the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women's rights in every country, on every continent."
As President Barack Obama says, "Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity -- men and women -- to reach their full potential."