March 8 is International Women’s Day.

What is and why do we have International Women’s Day? Here’s an excerpt from the United Nations website:

“The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) on 8 March during International Women’s Year 1975. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.

The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.”

While many people think of International Women’s Day as an opportunity to bring awareness to the struggles of women in developing nations, it’s important to remember the challenges that exist right here at home.

This year’s IWD theme is:

A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”.

The statement above likely prompts people to first think about the violence occurring against woman and girls in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India or many African countries. It’s easy for western cultures to look to these nations and feel advanced and enlightened. We tell ourselves that our women have rights entrenched in our constitutions; our women are entitled to education; our women have access to virtually any job in our society. We tell ourselves that our women are safe.

Sadly, violence against women is not isolated to nations that we consider ultra-conservative or anti-women. Violence against women is happening right here, in our country and in our homes. So what can we do to stop it?

Awareness: We can face the harsh reality that violence against women is an issue in our culture too.

Respect: We can collectively embrace and demonstrate values that reflect a true belief in the equality of women.

Speak Up: We can talk about the continued need for awareness and action against violence — in our homes, in our communities, in our countries and in the world.

Enlighten: We can raise men who value and respect the abilities of women and actively support women through their actions and their words.

Until parents feel as safe having their daughter go out for the night with friends as we do our sons; until we believe that women should be able to get home after dark without feeling apprehension or fear; until every women feels safe and free from violence in her own home; we need to continue our fight to end violence against women in our country and around the world.

If you would like to start or join an action to end violence against women, then visit the UNiTE to End Violence against Women website.

The path to peace and equality needs to be walked together, by both women and men. Realizing our full potential as a society depends on it.

~ Maureen Douglas, CPF-IAF

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