#BalanceforBetter

March 8 is International Women's Day. Celebrated around the world, this day is set aside to honor achievements of women and promote gender parity. With past years highlighting topics such as equal access to education, voting rights, gender equality, equal employment opportunities, ending violence against women, and empowering rural women, International Women's Day is meant to help create a gender-balanced world by bringing attention to areas where change in women's rights and equal opportunity is still needed.

Bringing women's rights and women's achievements to light is the purpose of International Women's Day. The #BalanceforBetter campaign theme and message calls for improvements in the inclusion and respect of women across all sectors — social, economic, educational, and political.

Women deserve the same status and dignity as men, and empowering women around the globe is one of the United Nations' top objectives for International Women's Day.

Empowering Women

There are a lot of organizations working to empower women within the United States. Advocating for these same essential human rights and opportunities for women and girls around the world and in developing countries can be more challenging. But it's just as important.

Rural women make up one-quarter of the world's population and are significantly underrepresented by education level and work-force participation.

Empowering women requires forming meaningful relationships and providing consistent encouragement. Whether it comes from a parent, teacher, pastor, or coach, children will recall the kind and compassionate influencers that planted confidence in them at an early age.

The effects one positive and supporting voice can have in a child’s future can be transformative. The changes an encouraged and empowered child can later bring to her nation are profound. That voice of hope, optimism and possibility can be yours.

Will you be a distinctly empowering influence in a young girl’s life?
A Dominican baby in orange clothes looks over her mother's shoulder.

Education is a Foundation for Opportunity

Gender inequality has many faces. The educational, economic, social, and political underrepresentation of women all contribute to gender inequality, and each factor influences the next.

Nelson Mandela once famously claimed "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world." Starting at the most basic level of education, there is a clear need for better inclusion of women. Literacy rates remain unequal in almost one in five countries in the world. Of the 114 million young people still lacking basic literacy, nearly two-thirds of them are women.

Giving children access to a quality education is one of the greatest tools for fighting poverty. It's particularly important for girls.

Educated girls receive the skills, knowledge and self-confidence to be better parents, workers and members of society. According to UNICEF, "an educated woman is likely to marry at a later age and have fewer children . . . And the children of an educated mother are more likely to survive. In India, for example, the infant mortality rate of babies whose mothers have received primary education is half that of children whose mothers are illiterate." Employment opportunities open up for educated women, and the chances for career success improve.

Educational support is the number one benefit cited by many children we assist,1 and independent research conducted by Dr. Bruce Wydick, a developmental economist, confirms large and statistically significant impacts on educational outcomes for children in our Child Sponsorship Program.

Compassion-supported children stay in school 1 to 1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers, are 27 to 40 percent more likely to finish secondary education and are 50 to 80 percent more likely to graduate college than those not enrolled in the program.1

One reason for this is that sponsored children have their school fees, uniforms, books, and supplies provided for. Without this help, many kids would not be able to attend school.

A group of young Kenyan school girls run and laugh at recess.

When Women are Included

Women have a lot of talent and perspective to offer the world. Excluding them from equal participation in society is a loss to their communities and countries and hinders societal development.

Women are vastly underrepresented in the global labor market. They face a lack of exposure to jobs in modern fields and occupations that have traditionally been male-dominated. Females are even underrepresented in basic civic engagement and local leadership positions.

USAID reports that governments tend to be more democratic and responsive to citizens when women are included and participating in the political process. With women accounting for half of the human capital in any nation’s economy, restricting the spheres in which they are able to contribute stagnates potential growth and development. Additionally, women tend to be more generous with the benefits they receive from their work. Sharing with their community and supporting their family are high priorities for most women. This means women effectively multiply the impact of any benefit far beyond her own well-being.

Barriers to gender equality and opportunity have historically lead to underrepresentation of women in the United States and developing countries alike. The following video shares the story of Margaret Makhoha, a formerly sponsored girl who became a member of the Ugandan Parliament to use her platform to give back to her community.

How You Can Get Involved

Our Child Sponsorship Program is the only program to be independently and empirically validated as effective.

When you invest in a girl’s future, your sponsorship opens up opportunities to her that she may otherwise never have. Our holistic approach to child development ensures she will grow physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

Empowering a young girl involves building self-worth in her, and a knowledge that she is loved. It's challenging her to have goals and ambitions beyond other's expectations or current norms. When it comes down to a word, sponsoring a child is giving hope. On a day celebrating women, give a little girl hope.

I always tell people if you want to do something great in the world, sponsor a girl in sub-Saharan Africa … she's likely to obtain three more years of education, she's far more likely to finish high school and also has a greater chance of finishing university and getting a salaried, white-collar job in adulthood." — Dr. Bruce Wydick
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#PRESSFORPROGRESS

The first Women's Day was held in 1909, in observation of the one-year anniversary of the 1908 New York Garment Workers' Strike when 15,000 women marched for better pay, shorter hours, and the right to vote. Women's Day soon became a rallying opportunity for war protests and women’s suffrage.

Two years later, the first International Women's Day was commemorated by over a million people in Austria Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. Women marched and demanded the basic right to vote, and have eligibility to hold public office.

In 1975, as part of International Women's Year, the United Nations (U.N.) celebrated International Women's Day for the first time and established the annual observance on March 8. However, the U.N. is not solely responsible for International Women's Day. Many different organizations declare annual International Women’s Day themes to promote different aspects of the cause. The U.N. adopted this practice in 1996.

Last year's #PressforProgress International Women's Day campaign theme directed the global community to advance the status of women worldwide thorough improvements in gender inclusiveness – striving for better representation of women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, sports teams, and numerous other fields that have traditionally been male-dominated. Empowerment of woman must be aided through a public discourse that is determined to act differently in order to see real difference.

A Dominican mother holding her toddler daughter.

International Women’s Day is based upon collective activism and the solidarity that comes with taking shared ownership of being contributors to the desired change. It is a joint campaign that belongs to groups and countries everywhere. Renowned activist Gloria Stein described this unity, saying "The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights."

A women's march in 2017 mobilized over 3.5 million people to assemble across 58 countries in the name of gender equality. The march received a tremendous amount of buzz, with Facebook noting it as the largest recorded event on its network that year, having received double the amount of chatter as the previous year. Social media site Twitter became an important platform for speaking out against sexual harassment and assault when #MeToo started trending. Over 1.7 million tweets by women spanning 85 countries shared their stories in order to convey how prevalent the problem still is.

Writing on the occasion of International Women’s Day, Sarah Thebarge, an international speaker and the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls, captured the impetus behind International Women’s Day and offered a glimpse into why it has been celebrated around the world for more than 100 years.

"In the course of human history, the female population has been horrifically oppressed, abused and mistreated. Girls have been burned at the stake as witches. They have been buried alive, drowned and left to starve to death on trash heaps in China. They have been shot in the face for trying to go to school. Their feet have been crushed and bound. Their genitals have been mutilated. They have been hidden under yards upon yards of black fabric. They have been kidnapped and trafficked. They have been denied education, voting rights, property ownership, driver’s licenses and equal pay. One out of every five women has been raped. One out of four has been beaten by her romantic partner."

Despite the current and historical atrocities, women have shown incredible resilience and strength. International Women’s Day is meant to commemorate that. It is an official holiday in more than 20 countries.

Two smiling Mexican girls filled with hope and possibility.

WHY DOES GENDER PARITY MATTER?

Women and girls represent half of the world’s population and half of its potential. Yet, there are still more than 50 countries that have not yet constitutionally guaranteed equality between their male and female citizens.

According to the U.N., gender equality is a precondition for advancing sustainable development and reducing poverty, with empowered women being most capable of improving the prospects for the next generation.

Gender parity matters because "inequality between men and women penalizes societies at all levels of development. The violence, injustice and stereotypes suffered by too many women in their personal or professional lives undermine society as a whole, and deprive of it considerable potential for creativity, strength and confidence in the future." 3 Over the last decade, global progress toward realizing the full potential of women has been gravely slow, and the World Economic Forum predicts that the economic gender gap won't be closed until the year 2186, more than half a century from now.

Currently, a lot of opportunities for societal advancement are missed simply because women are excluded from a variety of occupations. There is a significant gender gap, while over 70 percent of men are being represented in the global labor market, only 50 percent of women participate. Women’s labor force participation had seen years of upwards trends, but in more recent years it has stagnated. Exposing girls to a broad range of careers as they grow up will allow their options to extend beyond traditional service and care jobs, allowing each girl to use her unique skills in whatever profession she can best contribute to.

Although women account for half of the population, they make up less than 20 percent of the world’s legislators. Gender parity is a fundamental human right and a necessity for an unfettered and prosperous world. Including women in governing and law-making decisions helps to ensure that a greater number of citizens concerns and needs are actively taken into account. When women are involved in these big decisions, a broader scope of initiatives are developed and sustainable peace is more likely. Providing women and girls equal access to education, health care, employment opportunities, political representation, and economic influence benefits everyone.

This International Women’s Day, we invite you to sponsor a girl and be the one to provide resources and support for holistic development in a young girl’s life.

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT COMPASSION AND HOW WE WORK?

Donating to a charity is an important decision. So when you’re passionate about a cause and want to make a difference, we encourage you to do your research. Compassion is 100 percent committed to financial integrity, stewardship, and using each dollar wisely. If you have any questions about Compassion or exactly how your donation will be used, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


1 Compassion International, Does International Child Sponsorship Work?, 2008.
2 Wydick, Bruce. "Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies for Helping the Poor." Christianity Today. www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/february/popular-strategies-helping-the-poor.html Accessed 17 February 2012
3 Message from Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017

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International Women's Day - Compassion International