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Marking International Women’s Day


Photo: AP
Women demonstrate support for jailed Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi as they mark this year's International Women's Day in Manila, Philippines

This is the VOA Special English Development Report. 

International Women's Day is celebrated every year on March eighth. Groups around the world use the day to honor the achievements of women. They also use the day to call attention to some of the major social, political and economic crises affecting women and girls. Forced marriage, sexual abuse, poverty and lack of education are among the leading issues. 

The United Nations says one in five women worldwide will be the victim of a sexual assault in their lifetime. The agency says rape and domestic violence are a major cause of death and disability among women ages fifteen to forty four. And, it says more than one hundred and thirty million women around the world have had their external sexual organs damaged or disfigured.  This practice is known as female genital mutilation. 

Poverty, food insecurity and access to education are also major issues affecting women.  The United Nations says the majority of the world's one point three billion poor are women.  And that women and girls in many countries lack of access to education. 

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says until women and girls are freed from poverty and injustice, the world's goals for peace, security, and sustainable development are at risk. 

National Woman's Day was first celebrated in the United States on February twenty eighth, nineteen oh nine. It became an international celebration in nineteen eleven. 

A year earlier, a women's rights leader suggested the idea at an International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin said women around the world should set aside one day every year to protest oppression and inequality for women. 

More than one million women and men attended events in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland during the first International Women's Day in nineteen eleven. 

The date for the observation was changed to March eighth in nineteen fourteen in honor of the first organized protest for women's rights.  It was on this date in nineteen oh eight that fifteen thousand women marched in New York City to demand better pay, shorter hours and voting rights.

Several countries now celebrate International Women's Day as a public holiday.  This includes China, Russia, Bulgaria and Vietnam.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at  And you can find us on Twitter and YouTube at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.