Int'l women's day: Red lips and real issues

Published: Wednesday, March 7 2012 9:04 p.m. MST

www.internationalwomensday.com

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International Women's Day turns 101 today, and the commemorations range from a thoughtful look at women of accomplishment around the world, including areas where they are challenged by government policies and inadequate health care, to a social media campaign called "Rock the Lips," which asks women to wear red lipstick to show their solidarity with each other.

The theme this year is "Inspiring Girls, Connecting Futures."

Business Times predicts the day will "see women's economic, political and social achievements celebrated across the world." Daily Nation notes that while much has been done to improve the lot of women worldwide, there's a lot left to be done and many parts of the world need work.

There's a list of events being held worldwide to mark the occasion on the International Women's Day site, www.internationalwomensday.com. It says American efforts to organize such a day started in 1908 with rallies asking for shorter work hours, better pay and the right to vote for women. The first international day, three years later, began with Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland in 1911. Thirty years ago, the United Nations declared the day would fall on March 8.

Earlier this week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon noted an "unbreakable link" between female empowerment and sustainable development. The U.N. has created what it calls "Women's Empowerment Principles," seven steps companies can take to "empower women in the marketplace, workplace and community."

Counterpart International is marking the day with videos and articles highlighting the issues that impact women and changes occurring in the nearly two dozen countries in which it operates.

Those includes efforts to save the lives of pregnant women in Yemen, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates. Pregnant women there are often plagued by inadequate health care and food supplies. The group points as well to efforts to improve nutrition for children and adults in Senegal. Its Food for Education program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, trains locals to provide health care. Other programming targets pregnant women and their babies.

In Afghanistan, Counterpart's efforts center on including women, who have long been marginalized and exploited. The current situation, it notes, is not old. Prior to Taliban control that began in 1996, Afghan women could pursue education and become doctors and lawyers, among other professions. Now, schooling stops at age 12 in some parts of the country, and it never begins in others.

In many countries, abuse is gender-based. TrustLaw has published the Thomson Reuters Foundation poll showing the five most dangerous countries for women: Afghanistan, Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia. Their issues include rape, forced marriages, sexual exploitation and more.

Women wanting a feel-good, no-need-to-do-much celebration can simply glide on some red lipstick and call it a good day. The marketing firm AKQA launched its "Rock the Lips" campaign as an awareness effort, says the Washington Post.

"Rock the Lips is an awareness effort," Kristina Slade, creative director of AKQA, wrote in an email to the newspaper's Maura Judkis. "It's a way to spread knowledge that there even IS an International Women's Day, and to support the idea. We felt that a 'celebrational' angle would appeal to an untapped segment of women."

Judkis notes that "without more explanation and information about what the day means, people who pose for an Instagram and post their photos on the Rock the Lips site may never learn the substance of the women's issues being raised."

Last year, on the day's 100th anniversary, a statement from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the highest-ranking women in the U.S. government, noted that "women still bear the brunt of poverty, war, disease and famines. And when it comes to the boardroom meetings, government sessions, peace negotiations and other assemblies where crucial decisions are made in the world, women are too often absent."

Clinton noted that "The United States continues to make women a cornerstone of our foreign policy. It's not just the right thing to do. It's the smart thing. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity. Investing in them means investing in global economic progress, political stability and greater prosperity for everyone — the world over."

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com Twitter: Loisco

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