International Women's Day (IWD), which has been observed since the early 1900s, is celebrated annually on March 8. This year, thousands of events are planned to inspire women, celebrate their achievements and identify ways to help create more women leaders. A global web of rich and diverse local activity, ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events, to local women's craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more, will honor and connect women from all around the world.
For example, the Arab Women Entrepreneurship Project, a Citi Foundation-funded initiative, will be led by AMIDEAST in Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, and the UAE. In each country 20 women will compete to be selected to participate in the program and receive two weeks of training in Amman on business topics such as: what makes a successful entrepreneur; how to fund a new business or business growth; how to assess risk and feasibility; strategic planning; accounting and cash flow; and customer service and sales skills.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the ASJA Ladies Association will offer self-defense training and certification for females aged 11 and older. And in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, the My Park My City campaign has organized an event in Thokoza Park to inspire change through a positive image of the mind, body and soul, and to position parks in South Africa as meeting places where girls can share ideas and inspire each other through a myriad of activities and activism. There will be career exhibitions and counseling for young girls, including talks by prominent professional women. Nurses will discuss the development and changes of a woman during the teenage years, including talks on healthy eating and regular exercising.
At United Way, celebrating women’s contributions to our community are part of our DNA. In 1887, Frances Wisebart Jacobs and others created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred. Today, women continue to be a driving force at United Way, as our Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) has grown into a global network of some 55,000 members in 143 U.S. communities, and the most successful philanthropic effort of its kind. With more members giving more money than any other similar women's group, the WLC has raised in excess of $1 billion in 12 years.
Grounded in the idea that addressing the most critical local needs lifts the community as a whole and creates a better life for us all, WLC members stand-up, unite, and take action on issues that hit closest to home by giving, volunteering, and advocating. With a focus on education, income, and health, a sampling of local actions includes: implementation of a nationally-recognized teen pregnancy prevention program in Anderson County, South Carolina; taking-on female foster youth emancipation in Ventura County, California; piloting a new approach to parental engagement in inner city schools in San Antonio, Texas; and visiting neighborhood parks to model playtime environments that promote literacy, math and social development activities with young children in Des Moines, Iowa.
Looking for a way to celebrate achievement of women in your town? A great way would be to help a girl become a successful woman by becoming a volunteer reader, tutor or mentor. Girls who struggle to read can fall behind in school and never catch up, and girls need caring adults and role models in their lives. Simply pledging to give a bit of your time and attention to young students today will make a better future for all of us. Happy International Women’s Day. LIVE UNITED.