On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day to commemorate women’s accomplishments and contributions to the world. However the day is also a reminder that we have not achieved gender equality and must continue to advocate for women’s rights. While there has been progress in increasing women’s access to educational, economic, political, and other opportunities in many countries, women still face many barriers including traditional cultural norms, gender-based violence, and workplace discrimination.
Empowering women has broad benefits for society. Expanding the employment opportunities available to women could boost a country’s productivity by up to 25 percent, and providing women farmers with the same access to resources as men could increase agricultural output by 2.5 to 4 percent. Ensuring girls complete secondary school would decrease the number of child marriages by two-thirds and child mortality would be cut in half. Increasing the number of women in government has also been shown to make institutions more inclusive and lead to improved public services for communities.
These possibilities are just a few of the reasons why we are so committed to implementing programs that create opportunities for women and girls around the world. Here are some of the ways we’re making that happen.
- World Learning CEO Donald Steinberg will be a representative in the U.S. delegation to the 60th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York this month.
- The Youth Leadership Program for Japan and South Korea brought 16 young women from each country to the United States this summer to build leadership skills and inspire a sense of civic duty.
- This month, we will implement the 10th International Women of Courage exchange program for 15 extraordinary women who are advancing human rights and democracy in their countries and societies.
- The Malawi Scholarship Program supports health care workers, many of whom are women, to obtain advanced degrees in the United States and other countries. After their program, the participants return home to help train others and provide quality healthcare to reduce rates of maternal and child mortality.
- Through the new Let Girls Learn Pakistan: Pathways to Success Program — part of a U.S. government initiative, launched by the White House last year and championed by First Lady Michelle Obama — we will help to expand access to education for thousands of Pakistani girls. Pathways to Success will help girls from underserved areas, ages 13–19, gain job skills and learn about entrepreneurship by providing scholarships for vocational training and internships for local businesses.
- Our STEM education program in Egypt (ECASE) project is improving girls access to education through pilot schools focused on science and technology. The project ensures that 50 percent of the students in these schools are girls and in school they develop projects to help solve Egypt’s grand challenges, such as pollution, overpopulation, and water scarcity. Student Yasmine Yehia Moustafa won first place in the Earth and Environmental Sciences category at the Intel International Science & Engineering. NASA also honored her achievements by naming a newly discovered asteroid, 31910 Moustafa, after her. A number of other female students and groups have also won national and international competitions for their innovative projects.
- Last October, World Learning, Women and Girls Lead Global, and ITVS partnered to highlight the importance of empowering girls to create long-term, sustainable development through Generation 2030: The Power of the Girl, a film screening and expert panel discussion.
What else do you think can be done to increase women’s opportunities worldwide? How do you think this would benefit society? Share your ideas in the comments or join the conversation on social media using #IWD2016 and #WomensDay.