Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Celebrating Women Every March

Every March the U.S. commemorates Women’s History Month. Globally, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day.   The commemoration in the U.S. started in 1981 when Congress passed a resolution which asked the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7 as Women’s History Week.”  Following a petition by the National Women’s History Project in 1987 Congress designated the month of March that year as Women’s History Month.  Several resolutions later it has come to stay.

The month provides an opportunity to focus on women's issues, their achievements and challenges and is normally celebrated worldwide by U.S. Embassies and consulates.   In honor of this year's celebrations the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama and Ambassador-at-large for Global Women‘s Issues Melanne Verveer hosted the International Women of Courage Awards, honoring remarkable women from around the world.  Those honored are advocates of women's issues and many have done so at great personal risk.  For example Honorable Maryam Durani, a member of the Kandahar Provincial Council in Afghanistan who has spoken out for the rights of Afghan women and girls in a province considered the most conservative and dangerous in Afghanistan.  She has survived multiple attacks on her life including a suicide attack that resulted in serious injury.

Another honoree is Colombian investigative journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima.  In 2000, as she arrived at a prison to interview a key paramilitary member about an arms smuggling network, Jineth was kidnapped, and repeatedly gang raped. Despite this terrible experience she has continued her work as an investigative journalist as well as promoting justice for women who are victims of violence.

Their experiences exemplify some of the challenges  women face worldwide and shows that although remarkable progress has been made in promoting the rights of women a lot still needs to be done.

Here in Nigeria to commemorate the month a special lecture on women in politics was organized.  The lecture was delivered by the Secretary of State of Missouri, Robin Carnahan.  A successful politician from a political family, Ms. Carnahan spoke to the women about how to organize, raise funds, mentor and engage the media.
Visits and book donations were also organized to two girls high schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).  The girls were encouraged to stay in school and the importance of education in achieving their life goals was emphasized.

As the month ends one thing is key; the struggle to promote women rights is a year round affair and like the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “…Women’s rights is not just a moral issue; it is a security issue, a prosperity issue, a peace issue…it is in the vital interest of the United States of America.”  And for that matter, the world.

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