Friday, March 12, 2010

what a wonderful world ... of women.

Monday was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Many countries honor the occasion with a national holiday, including Vietnam, Russia and China. But not here in the good old U-S-of-A, no sir – er, ma’am. Here in America, the best we can do is hold a media event at the White House … which is nothing to sneeze at, I realize, but still, it’s not exactly a national holiday, now, is it? Heck, it’s not even a Hallmark-created holiday.

Lowered expectations, anyone?

Anyway, the State Department commemoration was kind of cool. President Obama and the First Lady welcomed women of the Obama Administration, members of Congress, women’s organization leaders and high-school students to their albino abode. Women working to help women all around the world were honored. And Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got all girlfriend-y.

Yes, ‘Chelle and Hill actually managed to make light of the dark 2008 duel between Clinton and Barack for the Democratic presidential nomination. The First Lady briefly stumbled over Clinton’s job title: “Let me thank my dear friend, Senator – Secretary Clinton. I almost said President Clinton,” quipped Mrs. O to laughter and applause.

“But let me thank you for your friendship,” the First Lady continued, “for your support … and for your indispensable advice in getting me through this first year and helping me figure out how to get my family settled in our new life in D.C.”

But the tone of the event turned serious as the President noted the challenges America still faces along the road to gender equality:

“Even as we reflect on the hope of our history, we must also face squarely the reality of the present – a reality marked by unfairness, marked by hardship for too many women in America. The statistics of inequality are all too familiar to us – how women earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make; how one in four women is the victim of domestic violence at some point in her life; how women are more than half the population, but make up only 17% of the seats in Congress, and less than 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs.

“These, and any number of other facts and figures, reflect the fundamental truth that in 2010, full gender equality has not yet been achieved.”

So that's the bad news – a misnomer, since it's not really "news," now, is it? And the good news? The ten amazing women who earned the U.S. State Department's 2010 International Women of Courage Award:
  • Dr. Lee Ae-ran of the Republic of Korea, for promoting human rights in North Korea and aiding the refugee community in the Republic of Korea;
  • Shukria Asil of Afghanistan, for promoting governmental responsiveness to meet women's needs;
  • Androula Henriques of Cyprus, for fighting human trafficking;
  • Jansila Majeed of Sri Lanka, for strengthening rights for internally displaced persons;
  • Jestina Mukoko of Zimbabwe, for documenting human rights abuses;
  • Sister Marie Claude Naddaf of Syria, for working for social services for women;
  • Ann Njogu of Kenya, for seeking social transformation and being at the forefront of reforms in Kenya;
  • Sonia Pierre of the Dominican Republic, for ending discrimination based upon country of origin and the human rights abuses of statelessness;
  • Colonel Shafiqa Quraishi of Afghanistan, for integrating women into the government and police force; and
  • Shadi Sadr of Iran, for advocating for women's legal rights and an end to execution by stoning.
Please click on their names and learn more about this extraordinary, global top ten and how each is making a difference in the world for women.

image source: associated press

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