Today marks the 108th anniversary of International Women’s Day – a day meant to commemorate the struggle for women’s rights. Originally coined as International Working Women’s Day to reflect the plight of female union workers, it earned its current moniker when the United Nations formally celebrated the day in 1975. Two years later, the peacekeeping organization invited its member states to adopt the occasion each year. UN-sponsored themes for each IWD have helped raise awareness of a range of women’s issues throughout the decades. Last year’s focus, for example, was “”Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” This year’s focuses on “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.”
“We want to construct a different world of work for women,” explains UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “As they grow up, girls must be exposed to a broad range of careers, and encouraged to make choices that lead beyond the traditional service and care options to jobs in industry, art, public service, modern agriculture and science. We have to start change at home and in the earliest days of school, so that there are no places in a child’s environment where they learn that girls must be less, have less, and dream smaller than boys.”
Media reports suggest that many women around the world will, in keeping with IWD’s origins, go on strike from the workforce and the world of consumerism as part of “The Day Without a Woman Strike” to (in a nutshell) force employers to recognize the impact women have on the workforce, and to recognize their need for equal rights in it. Many women, of course, can’t afford to take an unpaid day off; they may choose to wear red in solidarity with the movement.
While I understand the premise behind the strike, I would argue that today – and every day, in fact – women need to show up rather than opt out. Today is a day you can use to highlight the strength, intelligence, and compassion of women by serving others. Whether it’s other women in your workplace, the neighbor down the street, a friend in need, or the homeless man you pass on your way to work, you can use your talents, skills, finances, and love to make the world a better place for everyone – one selfless act at a time. Yes, it might sound trite – but it’s true.
Take a few minutes today to plan out an act of service that you can accomplish in the next 24 hours, and then take another to schedule an activity focused on giving back later in the month. (March is Women’s History Month, by the way. #HealthITChicks community member and CIO extraordinaire Sue Schade has written a great blog about it.)
In keeping with the UN’s IWD theme for 2017, consider supporting Kiva.org’s #InvestInHer campaign. The tech-enabled nonprofit is working to crowdfund more than $3 million in loans to thousands of female entrepreneurs around the world. As part of its overall goal, Kiva is offering 10,000 new visitors the chance to lend the equivalent of $25 on Kiva.org for free as part of the campaign. Visitors to http://www.Kiva.org/InvestInHer can choose a woman to support, and can direct that “free” $25 to that particular woman. Those small loans will be collected until the borrower’s loan request is fully crowdfunded. Kiva’s mission will hopefully change thousands of women’s lives. Learn more at https://www.kiva.org/lend/international-womens-day.
I’d also encourage you to consider donating to and/or becoming involved with Watsi or Girls Who Code – two organizations that the #healthITchicks community has partnered with over the last several years for our annual holiday giving campaigns.
Watsi is a nonprofit healthcare crowdsourcing platform that enables individual donors to directly fund medical care for individuals in developing countries without access to affordable medical care.
Girls Who Code is a nonprofit working to close the gender gap in technology through the creation of coding clubs across the country for girls in middle and high school.
As you contemplate the way in which you’ll celebrate International Women’s Day, I encourage you to think about the ways in which you can, as the #healthITchicks motto emphasizes, do good and give back.