Marking International Women’s Day

    Marking International Women’s Day
    Photo: AP
    Women demonstrate support for jailed Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi as they mark this year's International Women's Day in Manila, Philippines

    This is the VOA Special English Development Report. 

    International Women's Day is celebrated each year on March eighth. Groups around the world use this day to honor the  progress  of women. They also use the day to call attention to the  social, political and economic problems facing women and girls. Among the issues are forced marriage, sexual abuse, poverty and a lack of education.

    The United Nations says one in five women worldwide will be the victim of a sexual assault in her lifetime. It says rape and domestic violence are major causes of disability and death among women aged fifteen to forty four. More than one hundred thirty million females in Africa and other areas of the world have had their sexual organs cut for cultural reasons.

    Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says the world's goals for a peace, security, and sustainable development are at risk until women and girls are freed from poverty and injustice. More than one billion people in the world live in an extreme poverty. And the United Nations says the majority are female.

    National Women's Day was first celebrated in the United States on February twenty eighth, 1909. The next year, a women's rights leader from Germany suggested the idea of an international celebration.

    Clara Zetkin said women around the world should set aside one day every year to protest oppression and inequality. She suggested the idea at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen.

    More than one million people attended events in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland during the first International Women's Day. It took place in 1911.

    In 1914, the date for the observance was changed to March eighth in honor of a historic protest for women's rights. Fifteen thousand women marched in New York City on March eighth nineteen hundred and eight. They marched to demand better pay, shorter work hours, and the right to vote.

    International Women's Day is a public holiday in several countries, they include China, Russia, Bulgaria and Vietnam.

    And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. Tell us about the situation of women where you are, and will there be any local celebrations of International Women's Day? Post the comment on our website You can also find transcripts, MP3s, and captioned videos of our reports, I am Steve Ember.