During the month of March, we celebrate more than 100 years of social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women. Although the world has seen a significant number of improvements in women's rights – the right to vote, equal parenting, an increased presence in the boardroom – there is still a long way to go.
Today, women deal with discrimination in a variety of systems, from healthcare to education. Plus, women are more likely than men to be the victims of violent crimes. One in three women experiences physical and/or sexual violence, according to UN Women. And due to this act of violence, an adolescent girl passes away every 10 minutes somewhere around the world. Globally, nearly 26 percent of women aged 20-24 in 2010 were married before turning 15, according to UNICEF. What's more, two-thirds of these young women had no formal education and did not receive adequate medical attention during their pregnancy.
With these statistics in mind, it helps put into perspective that there is more to be done in order to achieve equality for all, which is why we celebrate, honor and fight for women throughout March.
We recognize women of all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities as we reflect and take action across the globe.
Here's a timeline to take you through National Women's Month and what you can do to celebrate them:
It's 1908 in New York City: the beginning of the garment worker's strike. Thousands of women are marching through lower Manhattan to Union Square, advocating for economic rights and improved working conditions.
Flash forward one year later: Feb. 28, 1909. To honor the one-year anniversary of the worker's strike, the Socialist Party of America organizes a national observance of women. Cue the birth of the first Women's Day in the United States.
Now imagine a 1910 Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. To honor the women's rights movement and achieve universal suffrage, International Women's Day is internationally welcomed with a unanimous vote by more than 100 women from 17 countries.
It's 1978 and the history of women is still nearly absent from U.S. history books and frequently left out of grade school curricula. In California, feminist activists take initiative as they reach out to the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County Commission to discuss the possibilities of revising school curricula. They discuss the possibilities of creating a "Women's History Week," and sure enough, they succeed. Word about this special week quickly spreads throughout the county as schools begin to observe and celebrate.
We're back in New York, where it started, but now it's 1979. Feminist activists are gathered at Sarah Lawrence College to attend a conference with the Women's History Institute. News about the week in Sonoma County picks up steam and reaches national recognition.
President Jimmy Carter declares March 2-8, 1980, the first national Women's History Week. Public schools in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon and Alaska begin developing and distributing learning materials to encourage the celebration of National Women's History Week and advocate gender equality.
It's 1986 and the Women's National History Project lobbies for a longer observation across the country. By now, 14 states already extended their celebrations to last the entire month. A year later, Congress passes a proclamation that officially declares March as National Women's History Month indefinitely.
How to celebrate
Now that you are educated and further understand women's struggle for equality around the world, here are three ways you can celebrate and give back to the community:
1. Donate to a local women's shelter
Be it money, clothing, food or your time, any type donation will be appreciated and warmly welcomed. For a more hands-on experience, help out at a battered women's shelter. This will allow you to see firsthand some of the difficulties women face and help alleviate some of the pain by volunteering. Gather up the troops and make it a group effort. The more you give, the more hope these women will have for a better future.
2. Change the world one dinner at a time
Dining for Women is a global giving circle that funds grassroots initiatives working to fight gender inequality in third-world countries. The initiative funds programs and provides tools for women and girls to help improve their living situations and make changes to their lives. Focuses include education, healthcare, economic and environmental sustainability, safety and security, and leadership and agriculture.
Join a local chapter or consider starting a new one. According to their website, Dining for Women chapters meet once a month and enjoy a meal with each other. Together, women share and learn about the month's featured programs through videos, educational documents, presentations and, of course, open discussions. Funds raised every month go to the featured and sustained program. Through this wonderful initiative, you can help make a difference.
3. Get personal
Celebrate the women in your life – be it a family member or close friend – by doing something out of the ordinary. If you're a technology guru and typically only communicate though a quick text or phone call here and there, try reaching out to those lovely ladies of yours on a more personal level. Express what each woman means to you, how she has helped you over the years or how brave she is, and most importantly, thank her. Pull out your personalized stationery, and individualize each letter. Thank mom for being your No. 1 support system and hero, grandma for teaching you how to bake her special pie and your best friend for always knowing what to say and how to make you smile when you're feeling down. The women in your life have shaped who you are and by taking the time out of your busy day to sit down and write a heartfelt letter, these ladies will see how important they truly are. Handwritten letters are hard to come by these days, so when a card does pop up in someone's mailbox, it is always appreciated and cherished.