Thousands of events celebrating women's progress, including one organized by World Vision, will take place today to mark the 101st International Women's Day.
World Vision, one of the world's leading humanitarian agencies, has highlighted a number of ways to empower women and to raise awareness about what areas need more work. The Christian humanitarian agency is providing resources on how to save a woman's life during childbirth, mentor a girl close to home, fight human trafficking, invest in a small business for women, and support the building of wells to provide a community with clean water.
The international organization has also started a new program called Strong Women Strong World (SWSW) that is working to invest in women in impoverished nations and empower women around the world.
"Investing in women is key to transforming communities," Cindy Breilh, national director of World Vision's "Women of Vision," told The Christian Post.
SWSW is a funding project that just launched in time for International Women's Day, and one of its key efforts is helping to save the life of women during childbirth by training midwives. Breilh said this training not only helps pregnant women, but also provides jobs for women in the community.
According to the World Health Organization, 1,000 women die each day in childbirth. In countries like Afghanistan and Bolivia, having a baby is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do, which is why SWSW is targeting communities in Afghanistan and Ethiopia and aims to expand to Bolivia in the near future.
Other initiatives by SWSW try to help women improve their economic situations. World Vision states that "when a girl is born into poverty, she enters one of the largest groups in the world to experience the lack of basic needs and human rights. In some countries, a cultural preference for sons means that daughters are less likely to survive until birth and may be neglected, abandoned, or even killed if they do."
Breilh told CP that clean water initiatives, small business loans, or midwife training all help women get out of their impoverished situations. When a woman is lifted "out of poverty, she gives back 90 percent to her family and community," she said.
Women who are able to earn a living also invest in their children's education and in health care.
Breilh said that one thing many Americans don't always understand is the fact that many women around the world are viewed as property, and of lesser value than boys.
She said International Women's Day initiatives and SWSW are meant to change this thinking about "how women and girls are viewed so it begins to change the behavior [towards them] in the community."
World leaders including President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have made official statements supporting International Women's Day and its message. Also, British Prime Minister David Cameron and other celebrity supporters have also expressed support for the day.
International Women's Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900s. "Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures" is the 2012 theme of the internationalwomensday.com website. Each year the United Nations declares an overall International Women's Day theme. Their 2012 theme is "Empower Rural Women – End Hunger and Poverty."