As we mark International Women’s Day on March 8, an increasing number of women around the world find themselves and their families in dire economic circumstances. While we as a nation focus on the economic realities here in the U.S., we must not let global starvation, violence, trafficking, and the lack of health care, clean water, and basic necessities fall lower on our priority list.
More than one billion people live on $1.25 or less a day, the majority of whom are women and children. Women in poor countries face daily struggles and life-threatening challenges. Hunger and disease continue to cause death and suffering for millions. Even in developed nations, women in low-income families struggle to provide food and shelter.
The world community of women must not allow difficult economic times to distract our global leaders from ending the wars, feeding the people, and stopping the systemic sexual violence and horrific crimes committed against women and girls in every country — whether in a democracy or under another form of rule. Amnesty International reports at least one out of every three women worldwide are beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lifetime, with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries. In war-torn countries, women and girls are being treated as weapons in the conflict — and torture, rape, and sexual violence are destroying entire communities.
Inspiring new optimism is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has the influence to improve women’s lives globally. In her confirmation hearing, Clinton made clear that she intends to advocate for women and girls in every corner of the world:
Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed and unpaid. If half of the world’s population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal, and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity will remain in serious jeopardy.
Investments that improve women’s lives through education, training, health care, nutrition, access to capital and reduction of conflict should be at the top of every nation’s priorities, including ours. Making sure that women are doing well also means that their children will do well and future generations will continue to reap the benefits. This International Women’s Day offers an opportunity for the United States and other nations to commit themselves to these all-important goals.