With historical origins dating back to the early 20th century, International Women's Day has been officially celebrated since 1977, when the United Nations made a special declaration setting the date in early March every year. This year saw a flurry of important events around the world that coincided with March 8th, including ceremonies designed to honor women of national and international importance in many countries and a number of valuable statements made on behalf regarding the cause of gender equality. A number of prominent women also gave speeches this Monday, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, who noted that "The rights of women and democracy are one and the same." A study released this past Monday by the Inter-Parliamentary Union noted that women make up a record-breaking 15.3 percent of the world's lawmakers. The country with the greatest percentage of female lawmakers is Rwanda (49 percent), followed closely by Sweden, with 45 percent. While there was much to celebrate, there were also some ominous trends noted by lawmakers and officials, including the rapid and disturbing increase of young women with HIV around the world in the past few years, a fact noted by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan during his remarks to a special UN session.
The first site will take visitors to a news piece from the Baltimore Sun that contains Shirin Ebadi's remarks made on International Women's Day. The second link leads to a news piece from Al-Jazeera that discusses the rapid increase of HIV among young women, a public health issue that is becoming endemic in certain parts of the developing world. The third link leads to an article from the Cornell (University) Daily Sun that offers details on a celebration honoring women on their campus who had worked to improve the situation of women locally, nationally, and internationally. The fourth link will take visitors to the rather comprehensive website for International Women's Day 2004 created by the United Nations. The site contains information on the events sponsored by the UN and its Women Watch website, which serves as a clearinghouse for resources on gender equality and empowerment of women. The fifth link will take users to a good history of International Women's Day, created by Joyce Stevens for the Australian Women's Intra Network. The final link leads to a well-honed site developed by the World Health Organization to highlight its own work on women's health (including special sections on work in Southeast Asia) and to bring together a number of useful fact sheets and related web-based resources.