Africa: International Women's Day Puts Spotlight on Victims, Activists, Heroes

Women at work in Nigeria.

Civic and governmental organizations around the world are preparing to recognize and celebrate International Women's Day on Friday.

International Women's Day is a more than 100-year-old celebration of women's social, economic, cultural and political successes worldwide while also calling for gender equality.

It falls on the same day every year, March 8, and brings together governments, women's organizations, businesses and charities. Cities and towns around the world mark the day with rallies, conferences, art and cultural projects, and lectures.

It began in 1908 when 15,000 women garment workers went on strike and marched through the streets of New York, demanding shorter work hours, better pay and voting rights. In 1910, a German woman named Clara Zetkin suggested the declaration of a Women's Day at an international conference attended by 100 women. The idea was accepted unanimously.

In 1911, it was celebrated for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. More than 1 million women and men attended demonstrations in support of a woman's right to work, vote, study and hold public office.

The United Nations officially recognized International Women's Day for the first time in 1975. In 2011, then-U.S. President Barack Obama took Women's Day a step further, declaring March Women's History Month.

Since the day is not country-, group- or organization-specific, the focus for each year's celebration varies widely, but all are centered around the myriad issues faced by women around the world.

Violence, other dangers

Ahead of the International Women's Day, the International Rescue Committee has released a report on the five most dangerous places in the world to be an adolescent girl. Taking into consideration data on child marriage, adolescent birth rates, literacy, rates of violence and child labor, the IRC named Niger, Yemen, Bangladesh, South Sudan and the Central African Republic as the most dangerous for young girls.

Bangladesh, South Sudan and the Central African Republic led the group in gender-based violence. The IRC noted that 65 percent of women and girls in South Sudan have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime, making it one of the highest rates in the world.

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