International Women's Day (IWD) celebrated its 100th anniversary on March 8th. According to its website, the first IWD rallies were held in Germany and Switzerland bringing together more than one million women and men who supported "women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination." Its focus changed after the tragic Triangle Factory Fire in New York City. That event led to an examination and improvement of working conditions in the United States.
The status of women in the United States has improved remarkably during the past 100 years. While there is still work to do regarding pay equity and the treatment of women who live in poverty, American women continue to make progress. Unfortunately, there are many places in the world were women don't fare as well. In some countries, women are treated as chattel, without rights, stripped of dignity and the ability to support themselves and their children.
In honor of International Women's Day (and Women's History Month in the U.S.) the following are outstanding organizations that work in the spirit of IWD to improve the lives of women and girls worldwide.
Woman for Woman International helps women in war-torn countries by pairing them with a "sister" sponsor aboard. The sister sponsor contributes financial and emotional support, and the recipient receives "direct aid, rights education, job skills training, and (assistance with) small business development." According to their website, the organization has helped more than 299,000 women around the world and distributed more than $95 million in aid and microcredit loans, among other programs.
Global Fund for Women believes that "each person and all peoples are guaranteed their fundamental human rights – civil, cultural, economic, political, and social. Women everywhere have a voice, have choices, and are able to realize their full potential within their societies." The goal of the organization is to link donors with organizations that assist women and girls around the world.
According to its website, The Global Fund has raised $85 million since 1987 and provided grants to 4200 grassroots group in 1717 countries. Some of the areas supported by the group include economic justice, access to education, and political participation by women.
The excellent book Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Dristof and Sheryl WuDunn lays out in stark detail the crisis of sex slavery and trafficking around the world. This isn't something that happens "somewhere else." Human trafficking if prevalent in the United States, although many Americans are not aware of the problem. Shared Hope International vows to "eradicate sexual slavery…one life at a time." Through prevention, rescue, and legislative action the group works to end this abomination.
There are hundreds of organizations that focus on different needs, but one common purpose; to better the lives of women and girls. Visit the Half the Sky website for more ways to help.