Today is a special day. In China, women get the day off work. In Bosnia and Italy, women receive gifts of flowers. In Cameroon, women dance in the streets. What will you do today to make it a special day?
For 100 years, the world has marked International Women's Day by celebrating women's economic, political and social accomplishments. This March 8, we are coming together again to mark this special day by calling attention to the inequality and discrimination that is still a daily fact of life for millions of women.
There have been dramatic changes since 1911, when more than a million people around the world took to the streets to protest discrimination against women and to demand that women be allowed to get an education, have the right to work, to vote and to hold public office. But there's a still a way to go. There isn't a single country that can claim its women are treated equally to men, but it is across the developing world where discrimination and inequality have the most dramatic consequences.
Take food as an example. Across the globe -- from New York to Nairobi -- it is still women who do most of the cooking. No surprise there. But did you know that the majority of the food eaten around the globe every day is grown by women too? And the irony is that they are more likely to go hungry!
Millions of women face a daily struggle to put food on the table because of discrimination and inequality. This doesn't just make their already difficult lives harder, but it is also part of the reason why the number of hungry people around the globe continues to hover around one billion.
And when crisis hits and food prices rise -- as they have in recent months -- it is women who go without to ensure their families have enough to eat and their children are well-nourished. With increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather hitting harvests, women face an even steeper uphill struggle to feed their families.
But women are also key agents of change in their communities, and they are fighting back against hunger. I will never forget the women of Chitehwe, a small village in Mozambique in Southeast Africa I visited with Oxfam. Many of the women I met are illiterate, HIV-positive and desperately poor. But they aren't giving up hope and are taking things in their own hands, fighting back however they can.
They showed me their new chicken coops, which have already started to radically change the dynamics of their community. Not only do the chickens provide them with eggs to feed their families, they can also sell their chickens and eggs at the market and use the income to buy food and other basic necessities for their families. In some cases they even make enough to send their children to school for the first time.
While their living conditions are shocking by Western standards, I was truly energized by the way the women I met are working to change their lives and their communities. I continue to be inspired by these women and want to help them and more women get the skills to be self-sufficient. It's a quiet revolution that you won't hear much about in the media, but there is little doubt that they are taking their destiny, and the destiny of their continent into their own hands.
So today, whoever you are and however much money you have in your bank account, I urge you to join their quiet revolution. Take a bit of time out to celebrate, learn and join Oxfam in the fight for a truly equal world.
For more information go to www.oxfam.org.