Although March 8th marks the 101st anniversary of International Women's Day (first celebrated in the US in 1911), women and men are far from equals in 2012.
Only 16 percent of Fortune 500 board chairs are women, and the U.S. ranks 17th in the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report.
Still, in other parts of the globe, women are much worse off: Did you know that every minute one woman dies from often-preventable complications due to pregnancy and childbirth? Or that an estimated 50 million+ girls worldwide aren't in school? In many countries, rape is used against women and girls as a weapon of war, and sex trafficking and human slavery remain a very real problem. Poverty and hunger disproportionately affect females, and 70 percent of the world's poorest people are women.
Statistics may stun us, but there's so much we can do to impact change. Below are ten simple actions you can take right now to learn more about the inequality debate and improve the lives of women and girls everywhere.
- Join or host a potluck dinner. Dining for Women is a giving circle that supports women's programs year-round, and during the month of March, the organization is focusing on the Women's Earth Alliance. The Alliance implements water-related strategies to improve health, self-reliance and resilience to climate change. Find a dinner here.
Sign a pledge. Help Every Mother Counts reduce needless maternal deaths by signing the MAMA pledge. Part of the Motherhood Around the Globe exhibit at the International Museum of Women, the Pledge will be given to policy makers and presented at the 2012 UN General Assembly. Sign the pledge here.
Watch a movie on your laptop. On Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 PM (EST) the humanitarian organization CARE presents a special live stream of the award-winning film, "Pray the Devil Back to Hell." The film tells the story of the brave Liberian women who took on a harsh regime and won peace for their country. Watch the movie here.
Organize a bridge walk. On March 8, help Women for Women International assist women survivors of war in rebuilding their lives. From the Brooklyn Bridge to your neighborhood cul-de-sac, Join Women on the Bridge events are marches that unite women and men around the world in taking a stand for peace and women's equality. Find a local event here.
Play an online trivia game. Help a mother feed her family. For each correct answer on Freerice.com, the World Food Programme will donate 10 grains of rice to help end hunger. Over 91 billion grains have been donated so far. Choose from dozens of categories including humanities, geography, math and more. Play the game here.
Read a book. Learn about the courageous journey of anti-slavery activist Somaly Mam. In the vein of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's "Infidel" and Ishmael Beah's "A Long Way Gone," Mam's "The Road of Lost Innocence" is a story of triumph over years of sexual slavery and puts a face and a voice to a human rights disaster of global proportions. Click here to read an excerpt.
Volunteer at a local women's shelter. The National Network to End Domestic Violence supports the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) and connects local domestic violence service providers and provides valuable resources for information about services, programs, legislation and policies that support survivors of domestic violence. Learn more here.
Write a letter. Amnesty International's campaign "Demand Dignity" wants to end the injustice that perpetuates the cycle of poverty and disproportionately affects the livelihood of women and girls. Add your voice to those in poverty and help their rights count. Find out how here.
Give yourself a history lesson. March is National Women's History Month. Read about women who broke rules and barriers and paved the way for future generations -- from suffragettes to artists to factory workers to the women in the military. And lend your signature to the campaign for a permanent home for the National Women's History Museum. Learn more here.
Exercise your right. Many women have died for the right to vote. In this U.S. election year, it's important for every voice to be heard and every vote to count. Register here.
This March 8, I'm standing in solidarity with Annie Lennox and EQUALS to step up the call for an equal world. For more information and ways you can get involved, click here.