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Opinion Pieces Address International Women’s Day

Investing In Women Worldwide Promotes Development 

Government and business leaders worldwide should “see investing in women as a strategy for job creation and economic growth,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton writes in a Bloomberg Businessweek opinion piece, supporting her statement by noting “there are more than 200 million women entrepreneurs worldwide,” women’s incomes are expected to increase to more than $15 trillion annually over the next few years, and “women’s incomes are growing faster than men’s” in many developing countries.  

“If we invest in women’s education and give them the opportunity to access credit or start a small business, we add fuel to a powerful engine for progress for women, their families, their communities and their countries,” Clinton says, adding that women “invest up to 90 percent of their incomes on their families and in their communities.” Providing women with “equal access to education and health care and the freedom to start businesses, the economic, political and social benefits ripple out far beyond their own home,” according to Clinton. She notes the State Department’s efforts to support women, calling it “a critical element of U.S. foreign policy.”

International Women’s Day is “an occasion for honoring the achievements of women,” but it is also “an occasion for recognizing how much more needs to be done to support women and girls worldwide. … If we decide – as societies, governments and businesses – to invest in women and girls, we will strengthen our efforts to fight poverty, drive development and spread stability. When women thrive, families, communities and countries thrive – and the world becomes more peaceful and prosperous,” she concludes (3/8).

What Will Next 100 Years Bring For Women’s Rights?

As we honor the “women around the world [who] took to the streets to demand basic rights” during the first International Women’s Day 100 years ago, “and celebrate a century of accomplishment, we should also look forward,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writes in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “In particular, we should ask ourselves: How can we build upon those accomplishments? What do we want our legacy to be one hundred years from now?”

Gates continues, “For me, the measure of our success will be determined by one thing in particular: the health of women and children. … Here is my vision: within the next 100 years, but hopefully much sooner, women everywhere will have the knowledge and the power to save their lives, and the lives of their babies. Yes, it is ambitious – but if [we] don’t imagine it, we will never achieve it. Let us take our dreams and turn them into action; together, we will accomplish extraordinary things” (3/8).

To Improve Health Of Families, Communities, We Must Begin With Women

On International Women’s Day, “[w]e urge governments and policy makers to address the health of women in a comprehensive manner, through integrated health approaches that include reducing maternal mortality, tackling infectious diseases, addressing NCDs [non-communicable diseases], and by improving treatment and care and actively encouraging prevention,” Nalini Saligram, founder & CEO of Arogya World, and Jill Sheffield, founder and president of Women Deliver, write in a Huffington Post opinion piece. “In order to improve the health of families and communities, we must begin with women” because they “are a key part of the solution to one of the world’s biggest global threats – the NCD crisis,” they write, asking women worldwide “to do whatever is within their own power to steer their families toward healthier living.”

Saligram and Sheffield conclude, “Just as we have ensured that maternal and infant mortality have greatly decreased, so can we wage battle against the largest global killers of women. If governments and women make prevention a top priority, International Women’s Day 2011 will be a celebration of a healthier future for us all” (3/7).

Help Women By Expanding Trained Health Care Workforce

“As we aim also to tackle the great injustice of high maternal mortality and to improve infant and child survival and health, we should draw on all that women have to offer,” Sarah Brown of the White Ribbon Alliance writes in a post on Reuters’ blog “The Great Debate UK,” continuing, “So let’s find a way to put more women in to dignified work and simultaneously reach towards a great unmet need. That need is more trained health workers – 3.5 million of them in fact.” Brown highlights a letter (.pdf) being sent this week to President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, co-chair of the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women and Children’s Health, “calling for the investment into health workers to be made” (3/7).

Men, Women Should Join Together To Promote Gender Equity 

Marking International Women’s Day, journalist Mariella Frostrup writes in an Observer column of the health challenges women in developing countries face, such as those resulting from acts of sexual violence, and increasing efforts to promote gender equity. “There’s a new wave of support sweeping from the developed to the developing world through women joining forces and rolling up their sleeves to lend a hand. … Countries where girls are educated and women play their part in government are places where peace reigns and economies begin to flourish, and women are more interested in ending wars than starting them – there are endless statistics that prove this to be the reality.”

Gender equity can bring about advances in maternal and child health, Frostrup writes, adding, “The emancipation of women is the only possible future for the developing world, as it was and continues to be for us. There are too many people on this planet for us to be able to afford to leave nearly 50% of them in penury, uneducated and without a voice. … My profound hope is that we can, men and women alike, work together to create the circumstances in which International Women’s Day can become the cause for celebration it should be” (3/6).