More than 100 years ago, a woman named Clara Zetkin had a dream.
Clara was the leader of the “Women’s Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany. At that time, women in most countries did not have the right to vote. Clara was one of many women around the world working to change that.
In 1910 Clara attended the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark. At this conference, attended by more than 100 women from 17 different countries, Clara shared her dream: that a celebration would be held on the same day each year in every country so that women could gather together and advocate for their rights. Her suggestion was met with unanimous approval.
One year later in 1911, Clara organized the very first International Women’s Day. The success of that first International Women’s Day exceeded all expectations.
Now, over a century later, Clara’s dream continues to be celebrated on March 8 – International Women’s Day.
Since 1910, women have made significant progress in many ways. In most countries, women now have the right to vote, to hold elective office, and to participate as active citizens in their governments.
But women and girls still struggle. The reality is that gender inequality continues to exist in every country and community in the world—both developed and developing, foreign and domestic. Women and girls remain the poorest, most oppressed societal group on the face of our planet.
To put it simply: the persistence and pervasiveness of gender inequality bothers me. It bothers me that, of the 1.5 billion people living in extreme poverty today, 70% are women and girls. It bothers me that women do two-thirds of the world’s work, but earn only 10 percent of the income. It bothers me that women produce 50% of the world’s food, but own less than 1% of the world’s land. It bothers me that women and girls continue to be bought and sold like commodities. It bothers me that the majority of children not in school today are girls who have been denied access to education because of their gender. It really bothers me that the 273 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been missing for almost a year, and the world has stopped raising a stink about it.
I believe that no matter where we live, no matter what our faith or religion, no matter what our experiences have been, most women want the same things.
We want economic opportunities to provide for our families. We want education for our children. We want our voices to be heard, particularly when it matters. We want security, justice and peace.
We all have dreams. Sadly, many of the world’s women and girls believe their dreams are impossible and completely out of reach. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Like Clara Zetkin, I have a dream.
My dream is that International Women’s Day will celebrate the fact that true and universal gender equality has become a reality for everyone, everywhere.
Being bothered about what’s wrong with our world can be a powerful motivator to help make things right. So on this International Women’s Day, what bothers you enough to inspire some action?
What specific step(s) will you take help the world’s women and girls be closer to living their dreams one year from today?
You can start here... one action at a time.