March 8th is International Women's Day. First proposed by German political Clara Zetkin in 1910, it was officially adopted in 1911 as a means to celebrate the economic, social and political achievements of women.
As we approach the centennial, it's time to start thinking about how the women of the future - girls - can be included.
There are 600 million girls in the developing world who have the potential to one day change the face of the economic, social and political achievements we celebrate. But only if we give them a chance today.
It's hard to imagine we'll have many achievements to celebrate in the future if girls continue to face high odds for early marriage, early pregnancy, sexual violence and high-risk of HIV infection and little-to-no access to school.
So, as we honor women this Sunday, I hope you'll think about those who will become women. I hope you will consider the girl effect - the ripple effect that occurs on a family, community and country when girls have an opportunity to participate. Investments in girls can change the world.
I've seen this transformational change occur time and again. In Tanzania, India, Paraguay, Bangladesh, China...no matter where they are, girls can transform the world around them. If you happen to be thinking "It's not that easy," you're right. It's not always easy, but it is possible.
We recently introduced a guide called Your Move that describes how to invest in girls and paints a picture of the significant cost to the world of not investing. It's meant to benefit organizations and people from all sectors as they think about investing in girls. At a minimum, it will help people to see what's really going on.
International Women's Day is an important reminder that today's girls are tomorrow's women. While we must ensure that girls are included in the conversation, it's equally important to take time to recognize amazing women. It just so happens that I know a great way for you to do that.
Our partners at CARE are part of a one-night-only, nationwide premiere of a documentary called "A Powerful Noise." It tells the stories of Hanh, an HIV-positive widow in Vietnam, Nada, a survivor of the Bosnian war, and Jacqueline, who works the slums of Bamako, Mali. These distinct stories show a common thread: Power. They are overcoming gender barriers to participate. And they are each uniquely affecting massive change.
The women in this film are remarkable and have overcome all odds. So when you watch it, ask yourself how much more they might have achieved if we'd recognized their potential when they were girls - before they had to prove their potential to us.
On March 5, the film will debut in 450 theatres nationwide, followed by a live town-hall discussion with Madeleine Albright, Christy Turlington Burns, Nicholas Kristof and Helene Gayle. You can find a theater near you here.
One other note of interest: The official IWD Web site lists 244 events in the United Kingdom on International Women's Day. I was struck to see that the United States - with a population five times that of the UK - is in a distant second with 175 events. Hopefully once the girl effect is fully realized, we won't see such disproportionate figures. If anything, I'd challenge you to start to think about what you can do to change that.