INASIA

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International Women’s Day Marks 100 Years

March 2, 2011

By Carol H. Yost

This March 8th marks the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women. It will be a day to commemorate the unprecedented number of women candidates who ran in Afghanistan’s most recent parliamentary elections; the women who make up approximately 33 percent of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly and 29.2 percent of Timor-Leste’s Parliament; the high annual growth rate of women business owners in Vietnam; and the gender parity in Bangladesh’s primary and secondary education system. Two million girls are now in school in Afghanistan and 509,000 women own small and medium sized businesses in Indonesia.

International Women's Day 2011

This March 8th marks the 100th anniversary of the first International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women. Photo by Karl Grobl.

International Women’s Day, however, will also be a time for us to reflect on the challenges that remain. Despite great achievements in the Asia-Pacific region, women currently make up less than 10 percent of government ministers, the earnings gap between men and women in Asia surpasses that of other regions, and almost two-thirds of the illiterate population are women.

The time is now to build on significant progress made so far, and to seize on the economic and social benefits of today’s technological innovations to ensure women are not left further behind. Currently, a woman is 37 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than a man in South Asia, and only an estimated 22 percent of internet users in Asia are women, exacerbating women’s marginalization and further limiting their opportunities.

On this centenary celebration of International Women’s Day, with the theme of promoting equal access to education, training, and science and technology to women, The Asia Foundation reaffirms its commitment to meeting these challenges through innovative women’s empowerment programs working in close collaboration with a wide range of public and private stakeholders throughout the region. We’re enabling girls to realize their dream of attending college, helping vulnerable women to acquire marketable skills and financial security, and providing countless young women with the information they need to make smart migration decisions. Energized by such progress, we are committed to ensuring that women in the Asia-Pacific region can reach their full potential, with the cascade of benefits to them, their families, and societies that result.

Carol Yost is director of The Asia Foundation’s Women’s Empowerment Program. She can be reached at [email protected].

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