Women's rights have come a long way in the United States since the suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but gender inequality remains a serious problem around the world. Women in developing nations are often marginalized, with blocked access to education and even basic health care, and in developed countries, women's salaries often lag behind those of their male colleagues. International Women's Day was launched in the early 1900s to bring women together and work toward the common goal of promoting gender equality in society. This year, people from all walks of life will be participating in events on March 8 designed to create awareness of the challenges women face globally and to promote gender equality.
Every year, International Women's Day has a theme; this year's is "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum." More than 720 events are planned around the world, including art shows, fundraisers and educational seminars. In previous years, International Women's Day has focused on problems women in developing nations face — such as hunger and poverty — as well as universal issues like domestic and gender-based violence.
One of the primary goals of International Women's Day is not just to raise awareness of gender inequality but to work toward addressing the underlying causes. The social factors behind gender inequality are numerous and complex, but according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), women frequently experience discrimination in health care, education and the labor market. These factors are mapped out in the UNDP's Gender Inequality Index (GII), which measures the GII rating of many countries around the world. The GII reveals that discrimination against women varies widely by country, ranging from just 4.9 percent of women experiencing inequality in some developed nations to almost 77 percent in developing countries.
Gender inequality can have serious lasting implications for women, especially those living in poor communities in developing nations. Many girls are actively discouraged from attending school in countries such as India and Sri Lanka, and social perceptions of masculinity in some countries make increased sexual activity socially acceptable for men, according to the World Health Organization. This can leave many women vulnerable to HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Lacking education and even basic literacy means that many women are unable to improve their lives and escape abusive living situations.
ChildFund works in many countries where gender inequality is a serious problem; girls in Afghanistan have to overcome cultural barriers to receive an education. With our help, many young women have attended literacy classes, and some have continued to secondary school.
Our initiatives in Senegal aim to to promote wellness among vulnerable mothers and their children by providing them with access to educational programs and preventive medicine, which has had a positive impact on child mortality rates in the country. Similarly, our social justice projects in countries around the world offer women the chance to improve their lives through education and ensure that their children have a brighter future.
We could not do the work we do without supporters like you. To help us make a difference in the lives of women and girls around the world, please consider making a donation to our Gifts of Love & Hope catalog, which features items especially for women and girls.