Elizabeth Kiem is the online producer for unicefusa.org.
In this country, International Women’s Day (IWD) is looked at as, well, international. Four out of five American calendars (including the one on my desk that arrived compliments of my accountant) fail to even make a note of March 8th. It’s one of those “foreign” holidays”like, say, Boxing Day.
In other parts of the world, March 8th is celebrated not so much as a Day for Women’s Empowerment, as it is a Night to Go Out. Originally organized as a political event by the Socialist party, IWD was at its strongest in the 20th century behind the Iron Curtain, where marches, rallies and speeches by proletarian women were a must of the day. That, too, has changed. If tonight is anything like the 8th of March I used to experience as an expat in the late 90′s, Moscow’s restaurants will be packed and the sidewalks littered with cellophane roses. But not all of those feted women will experience enhanced respect.
And what about the situation beyond the U.S. and outside of the post-Soviet habits? What of International Women’s Day in the world’s largest, fastest growing populations and in the regions where the original human-rights-based focus of the United Nations-sanctioned holiday is still a valuable tool for women’s struggles?
|© The Economist|
A new report from the United Nations Development Program tells a truly disturbing story, one that is examined closely in this unflinching cover story of The Economist. In those parts of the world where boys are valued more highly than girls (particularly China and India), “females cannot take survival for granted,” says the UNDP report.
In these regions, sex-selective abortion, infanticide and discriminatory health care are responsible for the “disappearance” of some 100 million women and girls, according to the report. It is a trend that will have enormous social impact in years to come, not to mention the immediate suffering and grief it causes mothers today.
UNICEF’s child protection work saves lives all over the world. We are fighting trafficking and exploitation, abuse and sexual violence. With our vigilance, we can reduce the burden on women and girls by promoting education over labor; by improving access to female healthcare; by urging tough accountability for exploiters and recruiters of child soldiers; by warning of the dangers of child marriage; and by championing the Convention on the Rights of the Child as an unbreakable promise for girls as well as boys.
These are the means of attaining gender equality, a Millennium Development Goal. But no advance in gender equality can be considered a victory as long as the battle begins in utero.