March 8 is International Women's Day around the world. The United Nation's theme is "Equality for Women is Progress for All." It reflects the fact that specifically supporting women in emerging countries to become self-sufficient through micro loans, education and basic health care is the best way to address poverty, as opposed to massive amounts of top-down international aid to often corrupt and male chauvinist governments.
There will be more than 1000 events around the world celebrating women -- 154 and counting in the U.S.
While the first International Women's Day dates to 1941, the UN formally adopted the concept inaugurating International Women's Year in 1975, subsequently expanding it to the Decade of the Woman. Major world-wide conferences focused on ways to eradicate poverty, improve education and health care, and guarantee equality and human rights in Mexico City, 1975; Copenhagen, 1980; Nairobi, 1985; culminating in Beijing in 1995. The Beijing meeting was built on political agreements and legal victories in 189 countries achieved at the three previous global conferences.
The U.S. participation in the Decade of the Women began with a National Commission on Women established in 1975 that convened the first National Conference on Women in Houston, TX in 1997, where feminists and non-feminists "squared off" in an intense and energetic debate on the ERA, abortion and sexual preference -- issues that still divide us in 2014! Representatives to the UN international conferences were elected.
This year, the U.S. has adopted the slogan "Inspiring Change" for the month of March, designated as Women's History Month. Among our heroes are Amelia Earhart, Sally Ride, Rosa Parks and Billie Jean King. Less well known are the women who have beat the odds and make up the 16 percent of women holding public company board seats -- one of the remaining frontiers for women to cross. Some of these extraordinary women and their stories are profiled in a book by Betsy-Berkhemer-Credaire, The Board Game: How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors.
Thanks to the Internet, women throughout the country can participate in events ranging from film festivals, to 5K races, to a discussion of girls' education in India, to crowd-funding to support women entrepreneurs in Kenya, Uganda and Mexico. Google International Women's Day.
Other events celebrate the arts with concerts by women in music and art shows and photography exhibits featuring female artists. Women in Technology and Engineering (STEM fields) are holding an international seminar on the Web, as are Women's WorldBank Global.
Representatives of virtually every organization and institution in the country,
including churches, museums, universities, civic and women's groups, radio and TV stations, and local and state governments are mounting shows, marches, educational opportunities and festivals from Boston to Boulder and many places in between on and around March 8.
Twitter-ers can follow and comment on all happenings (#womansday or @womensday), and International Woman's Year is on Facebook, as well.
Women's History Month provides us with a great opportunity to celebrate women's progress here and abroad, but it is also a time to rededicate ourselves to the goals of women's equality and human rights still under siege in "the land of the free and the brave".