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Empowering Women: UNICEF celebrates International Women's Day

International Women's Day is March 8. Join UNICEF to support and champion women and girls on this day - and every day. 

We aspire to a world where every woman and every girl — no matter where she lives — is empowered with the agency, knowledge, skills and opportunities to achieve her fullest potential and realize her greatest aspirations. We aspire to a world where equality for women and girls is our reality rather than our goal.

Women’s rights are human rights, and only through ensuring that those rights are fulfilled can families, communities, societies — the world — truly unlock prosperity. A woman plays with her child at a health centre in India.

Every woman deserves to live in a world where she has access to knowledge that empowers her to make the best decisions for herself and her family. Pathani, a health worker in Pakistan, shares best health, nutrition and hygiene practices with fellow women.

Women from poor or rural areas often face gaps in information and health services that community health volunteers can help bridge. A volunteer in Bangladesh advises expectant women on how to care for themselves during pregnancy — and how their family members can help plan for a safe delivery.

“My biggest pleasure is to see that the mother and child are both healthy after the delivery,” says Shagufta Shehzadi (right), a trained birth attendant in Pakistan. “If mothers and children are healthy, the entire society will be healthy.”

Men have a vital role to play in championing women’s full equality, including rejecting discrimination related to childbearing and being full participants in the responsibilities of raising children. In Bolivia, Marcos Aguilar holds Maribel Ramos’s hand during an antenatal examination.

Social services help ease the challenging transition to parenthood, especially for disadvantaged families. In Croatia, community nurses — like Jelena Bilic (centre) — are helping parents give their children the healthiest possible start.

(Left) Nanai, who trained to become a volunteer health worker in Indonesia, is paying her own empowerment forward.

“The training increased my confidence and knowledge of proper nutrition for children. …
I want to share my experiences with other mothers,” she says.

In a mountainous part of Nepal where accessing health services proves difficult, female health volunteers are helping ensure pregnant women living with HIV go for their antenatal check-ups and have the support and supplies they need to thrive and give birth to healthy infants.

Hadiza Ahmadu chairs a group of mothers who help keep girls in school — despite challenges from men — in Nigeria.

“What motivates us as women is that we find girls are left behind in education. We want more girls to get [an] education so we can have women doing every type of work,” she says.

Women’s financial empowerment is fundamental to diminishing inequalities and breaking cycles of poverty. In Bangladesh, Eva’s mother, a single parent, has received cash transfers that have helped her open a tea stall — and earn money to support the family and send Eva to school.

With funds she received from a group of mothers in her community in Sierra Leone, Aminata Bangura set up her own business, a roadside shop where she sells candy, soap, powdered milk and peanuts.

Women have the right to access training, employment and economic opportunities equally. Adolescent girls and young women in India learn skills that empower them to find work or even start their own businesses — and create a brighter future for themselves and their communities.

Here are three ways you can join UNICEF to empower girls:

  1. Send girls to school
  2. End child marriage
  3. Protect the health of mothers and newborns

This photo essay was originally published by UNICEF on Medium.