"But this is no time to stop and rest," says Tiffani Sharp, Founder & Executive Director of Willow Tree Roots, a non-profit that works to empower women in the developing world through social entrepreneurship. "Now more than ever, we also have to bring awareness to critical female human rights issues and strongly advocate for change."
Born from the labor movements in North America and Europe around the turn of the twentieth century, the first National Women's Day was observed in the United States in 1909. Since then, the plight of women has seen great strides in some areas, but is still sorely lagging in others.
Therefore, the theme for International Women's Day in 2016 is "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality". This year's agenda outlines the goals of free and equitable education, early childhood care, and an end to discrimination, violence, sexual exploitation, trafficking, forced marriage and female genital mutilation by 2030.
So in honor of those 2030 goals, here are 30 reasons why International Women's Day is the most important day of the year:
1. Around the world, approximately one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. (UN)
2. Worldwide, women between the ages of 15-44 are more at risk from rape or domestic violence than cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria. (UN)
4. About 30 percent of all women report being in a relationship where their partner inflicted physical or sexual abuse. (World Health Organization)
5. Several studies reveal that about half of all women who die from homicide are murdered by their current or former husbands or dating partners. (UN)
6. 603 million women are living in countries where domestic violence is not a crime. (UN) In fact, out of almost 200 countries in the world, only 76 have laws that specifically mention domestic violence -- and only 57 countries have laws that address sexual abuse. Ten countries in the world legally obligate women to obey their husbands. (The Independent)
Child brides and legal servitude
7. It's estimated that around 15 million girls -- some of them as young as 8 or less -- were forced into marriage in 2015. (The Independent)
8. More than 700 million women in the world today were married before the age of 18, and 250 million were married before 15. (UNICEF)
Trafficking, slavery, and displacement
9. There are 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today and 600,000-800,000 human beings are trafficked across international borders every year. (DoSomething)
10. 4 out of 5 victims of human trafficking are female and 50 percent of them are minors. (Trafficking.org)
11. At least 20.9 million people are victims of forced work or labor slavery. (ILO)
12. In fact, women and girls make up 98 percent of all victims of forced sexual exploitation in the world. (Mashable)
13. Every year, around 14,500 to 17,500 women and girls are trafficked into the U.S. (Do Something)
14. Of the 42 million refugees worldwide who have fled their homes because of war, 80 percent are women, girls, or young children. They are often the targets of systematic rape, violence and terror by military and political parties, not just individual perpetrators. (Women's Refugee Commission)
15. It's estimated that up to 5,000 women and girls every year are murdered by their own relatives in so-called "Honor killings", mostly because they are rape victims, thought to have engaged in premarital sex, or accused of adultery. (UN)
16. About 584 women worldwide are completely illiterate. (UN)
17. 62 Million girls are denied an education every year worldwide. (Makers)
18. About 25 percent of young women (15-24) in developing nations - about 116 million total - never finished even primary school. (eGirlPower)
Work and income
19. Around the world, women are paid only 60-75 percent of what men earn on average. (PBS)
20. 70 percent of the 1.5 billion people in the world living in desperate poverty (less than $1.00 a day) are women. (Do Something)
21. 155 countries have at least one law that limits women's economic opportunities, 100 countries have laws restricting the types of jobs that women can do. (The Guardian)
22. In 18 countries around the world, men can prevent their wives from accepting employment. (The Guardian)
Childbirth, reproductive rights, and genital mutilation
23. Every minute, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth somewhere in the world, adding up 1,400 per day or 529,000 each year. 50 percent of pregnant woman in developing countries lack proper maternal care, so many of them die from very preventable diseases or complications. (UN)
24. About 1 in 4 women experience physical or sexual violence while they are pregnant. (UN)
25. About 200 million women and girls in the world have suffered forced genital mutilation in just 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. The vast majority of these were done without painkillers, medicines to stave off infection, or under supervision of a doctor. (World Health Organization)
The plight of women and girls in the U.S.
Sometimes people in the United States or western nations think that these issues are only confined to the developing world. But shockingly, these problems exist in the United States, too. According to the latest annual report by Maria Shriver, co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress:
26. 42 U.S. million (about 1 in 3) and 28 million children now live in poverty or on the brink of poverty.
27. In the U.S., almost two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are women, yet an equal two-thirds of women are the primary or co-wage earners for their families.
28. The average U.S. woman is paid 77 cents for every dollar their male counterpart earns. The statistics are even more disproportionate for minorities, as African American women earn 64 cents on the dollar every white man makes and Hispanic women earn only 55 cents for every dollar.
29. In 2014, the Nation Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline in the U.S. received multiple reports of human trafficking from every state and the District of Columbia. (Mashable)
30. American servicewomen are more likely to be raped by a fellow serviceman than killed by the enemy in combat. (Truth Out)
Despite these grim statistics, there is hope for change. In fact, there are certain initiatives that have been proven to empower women, improve their lives, and strengthen societies as a whole, generation after generation. Email me at hi@NormSchriever.com if you'd like a one-page brief on those initiatives.
If you'd like to read a first-hand account of how poverty, societal norms and even government corruption affect disenfranchised women in Southeast Asia, check out the book, The Queens of Dragon Town.