World Marks 100th International Women’s Day

Marking the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on Tuesday, U.N. Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet reflected on the progress made on women’s rights issues over the past century while noting the barriers yet to be overcome, the Canadian Press reports. “The last century has seen an unprecedented expansion of women’s legal rights and entitlements,” Bachelet said, noting the progress made in voting rights for women, laws against domestic and sexual violence, and women in the workplace, the news service writes (Lederer, 3/8).

Despite such progress, “women still bear the brunt of poverty, war, disease, and famine,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a State Department statement marking the day, in which she called for new efforts to promote gender equity throughout the world (3/7).

“Every 90 seconds of every day, a woman dies in pregnancy or due to childbirth-related complications despite us having the knowledge and resources to make birth safe,” Bachelet said in a U.N. Women statement. “It is not just women who pay the price for this discrimination. We all suffer for failing to make the most of half the world’s talent and potential. We undermine the quality of our democracy, the strength of our economies, the health of our societies and the sustainability of peace,” Bachelet continued, noting the need to provide women with equal access to education, training, science and technology – the focus of this year’s International Women’s Day 2011 (3/7).

“Access to science and technology empowers women to take control of their health and enables women and girls to participate in specialized training and educational programs,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a WHO statement. “With such training, women and girls benefit from innovative health campaigns often disseminated through online or mobile phone technology. If we are going to be innovative with health strategies, we must make sure that women and girls are not left behind because they do not know how to use them or do not have access to them,” Chan added.

Although “there is much to celebrate on this 100th anniversary … we are also faced with challenges. Maternal mortality rates and HIV rates among young women are still too high, tobacco consumption among women is increasing, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence continue to be widespread, and there is an increasingly heavy burden of noncommunicable diseases on women,” Chan continued. “Involving women in health research and technology development ensures that medical advances do not jeopardize their health and ensures equal benefits from these advances,” she said (3/8).

State Department Launches Women And Girls Empowerment Program, To Announce Collaboration With Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Initiative 

The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on Monday launched the “100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women & Girls Through International Exchanges,” a year-long series of events that will bring women leaders from 92 countries to the United States for a series of knowledge exchanges “that highlight key foreign policy issues directly affecting women and girls worldwide,” according to a State Department press release. “For three weeks, the 100 women will participate in a host of activities from meetings with senior leaders of the United States government to engaging with local community leaders who work on similar issues in small and large cities across the United States,” the release states (3/7).

“[T]his program represents just one of the ways that we at the State Department and in the Obama Administration are elevating the role of women and girls in our foreign policy,” Clinton said in a speech at the launch of the initiative. “For me, investing in women and girls is smart. … [I]f you want to alleviate hunger – you teach women, who are most of the farmers in the world how to get more harvest out of their hard work. If you want to alleviate poverty, you give women access to credit and opportunities to actually start to generate income for themselves and their families,” Clinton added (3/7).

In related news, the Washington Post reports on a joint effort between the State Department and Goldman Sachs scheduled to be announced on Tuesday that will “offer classes on the basics of business management to help” female business leaders in developing countries to “drive economic growth in their communities.”

“The partnership … augments an existing program run by Goldman’s charitable arm that has so far educated more than 3,500 women in more than 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Rwanda and China,” according to the Washington Post. The State Department already is involved with the Goldman initiative in Pakistan, but the new effort will allow the program, known as “10,000 Women,” to expand, the newspaper reports (Yang, 3/8).

The Guardian features a series of articles and commentary pieces marking International Women’s Day.

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