100 years of activism and change – International Women’s Day

First celebrated in 1911, International Women’s day gives us all a time to think about the women of the world who have been working locally, nationally, and globally to create better, fairer, healthier, more educated lives for all people on the planet.

UN Women was formed in July, 2010. The video below, created by UN Women, celebrates women’s activism, accomplishments, and continuing efforts spanning these 100 years.

Women’s Rights are inextricably linked to Human Rights.  The 1979 UN Treaty “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” (CEDAW, or the Treaty for the Rights of Women)  defines discrimination against women as any “distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of marital status, on the basis of equality between men and women, of human rights or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.”  One-hundred and eighty five countries worldwide so far have ratified this treaty — but not the United States. Amnesty International states:

The United States is among a small minority of countries that have not yet ratified CEDAW, including Iran and Sudan. The United States has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the Western Hemisphere and the only industrialized democracy that has not ratified this treaty.

Women’s organizations are taking this year’s International Women’s Day to call for action from our President and Senate. The National Organization of Women (NOW) is calling on Congress and President Obama to vigorously defend the health and dignity of women everywhere. Along with many other organizations, they are calling for the long-overdue U.S. ratification of CEDAW — the most complete international agreement on basic human rights for women.

The right to equal education is one of the fundamental principles of CEDAW. Research has shown that as the lives of women improve, countries become more prosperous. Keeping 50% of the population uneducated or unable to work and improve themselves keeps areas of the world in poverty.

More access to education of women has resulted in decreasing infant mortality rates across many countries. Yes, slight in some cases, but the two are inextricably linked. This chart linked below (created at Gapminder World) shows, in the two axes : Mean years in school (women of reproductive age 15 to 44) by Infant mortality (per 1,000 births). Be sure to click the “Play” button at the bottom to see the effect over time. You’ll see a lot of movement in most countries. War-ravaged Afghanistan on the far left has seen little improvement. Not surprising.

Increases in Women’s Education affect Infant Mortality rates

Every day is International Women’s Day. As women’s lives improve, the lives of men and children will improve as well. Yes, progress is being made — sometimes two steps forward and one back, sometimes the opposite — but it takes efforts all year long all over the world. We can all make a difference.

Reposted from my original post on http://uconnlibrary.wordpress.com

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