by Erica Oakley, Humanitas Global
The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1911 in just a handful of countries. Today, the 103rd International Women's Day celebration is a global one. This year’s theme “Equality for women is progress for all” highlights the enormous role of women as agents of change.
The participation of women in leadership roles - across all levels of society - has increased greatly since the first International Women's Day, with many great improvements socially, politically, and economically; however there are great strides still needed.
Women are an essential and key building block to the building up of society. From the woman smallholder farmer that does backbreaking work to feed her family, to the woman elected president and leads a nation.
According to a 2013 paper commissioned by the World Bank, countries with women political leaders often see “higher standards of living with positive developments in education, infrastructure and health, and concrete steps to help make democracy deliver.”
Many examples of societal improvements under women’s leadership provided in the report include prioritization of childcare, water infrastructure, improved roads,reproductive rights, higher focus on education, poverty alleviation, focus on land rights and improved health care.
Women's footprint on societal development does not stop at a political level. We know that women are just as influential as the movers and drivers of change at the household and community level as they are at the national level - if not more so.
When women are provided the resources, information, and opportunities to succeed, the impact on society is enormous. Their children are more likely to go to school, their families are more likely to receive the nutrition their bodies need, their incomes are more likely to increase, and the cycle of poverty is more likely to end.
This International Women's Day, we should reflect on the societal, political, and economic contributions of women across all levels of society and applaud their efforts in raising their families, communities, and countries to a higher level. Women are agents of change and there is still much to be done.