Many women were fortunate to wake up Thursday to a symbolic Google doodle celebrating International Women's Day, and the roles women play in their families, communities and countries. Some even got flowers and warm words from loved ones.
But there's another facet of the holiday, one that's truly meaningful: gender equality.
Every March 8, Women's Day honors women who have made a difference in the world. The good news is that women have come a long way in the 100 years since the holiday was established. In most countries, women have won suffrage and the right to health and education. In many others, however, progress has been slow.
I woke up Thursday to the story of an Azerbaijani woman who was shot to death by her husband's cousin in a divorce dispute. Though details were few, it's clear that the woman felt threatened as she tried to check into a medical facility before the violence, having had nowhere else to go. It might not have been a typical honor killing, but brutal incidents such as this are in the news daily; too often, authorities do little or nothing to prevent the violence or bring the perpetrators to justice.
Only two weeks ago there was another shocking event: A court ruled that a rape victim in eastern Turkey had engaged in consensual sex with her assailant because she did not scream during intercourse.
Such outrages must be addressed, regardless of where in the world they occur. War, domestic violence, slavery and exploitation must be fought constantly, and International Women's Day is an important time to raise awareness and remind people that gender equality in some countries is a long way off.
The work of Women for Women International is a shining example of how, in developing countries, a little effort can go a long way. Since 2002, the organization has worked with 33,000 Afghan women, providing them skills and resources to help begin careers and claim basic rights.
From the day they're born, many females in Afghanistan are told that theirs is the inferior sex. Denied opportunities, they struggle in extreme poverty and endure abuse, knowing little about their rights. Women for Women teaches them about their rights, gives them a voice and provides shelter from violence and abuse. Though the program has helped many, 87 percent of Afghan women are still estimated to experience violence.
Women for Women is also working in Iraq. Now that U.S troops have withdrawn from their country, Iraqi women are left to deal with the aftermath of a nine-year war. Over 1 million Iraqis are war widows, and the country initiated a Women for Women program to teach leadership and job skills to those affected.
Women Leaders To Speak At Summit
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join several accomplished women, including Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie and Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee at the third annual Women in the World summit, which begins Thursday in New York. Female leaders, advocates and activists will share stories of women who are battling the status quo, opposing injustice and shattering glass ceilings around the world.
The summit, organized by Newsweek and the Daily Beast, will be streamed live over the Internet; a live blog of the event will be available through the Daily Beast's Twitter and Facebook pages.