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Joanne Fritz

Choose Mentorship to Celebrate International Women's Day

By March 6, 2011

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We are celebrating International Women's Day all this week. The actual day is Tuesday, March 8, but there is so much to say about women around the world, that each day this week, we'll provide some statistics, highlight organizations that are working on women's issues, and suggest actions that you might want to take.

The History of IWD

International Women's Day is a global celebration of the economic, political, and social achievements of women past, present, and future.

The first International Women's Day events were run in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911 and attended by over one million people. 100 years on, International Women's Day (IWD) has become a global mainstream phenomena celebrated across many countries and is an official holiday in approximately 25 countries including Afghanistan, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia.

The 2011 IWD will see extensive global women's activity. Performer and social activist, Annie Lennox, will lead a mass march across London's Millennium Bridge for charity. In Washington D.C. over a thousand people will descend on Capitol Hill demanding a better world for millions of marginalized women and girls around the globe.

A major international businesswomen's conference will be hosted in Sydney, Australia. Schools and governments around the world are participating in the day. Trade Unions and charities are campaigning. Global corporations are hosting conferences and distributing extensive resource packs. The United Nations Secretary-General delivers a formal message. The United States even designates the whole month of March as Women's History Month.

For all the activity surrounding IWD, visit the IWD website.

Suggested Action

Mentor a girl or young woman. That is what one of the great women leaders of our time says. Frances Hesselbein knows all about how mentoring can help young women. She was the national Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of the USA for nearly two decades, a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, and today is CEO of the Leader to Leader Institute (formerly the Peter Drucker Foundation). Hesselbein writes and speaks around the world about effective leadership. I reviewed Hesselbein's recent book, My Life In Leadership.

Hesselbein sent me this statement for International Women's Day:

"As we celebrate International Women's Day, I remember women I have met, worked with all over the world, in 68 countries -- different cultures, different societies -- from Maori women in New Zealand to Amish women in York, Pennsylvania. And in all that travel, in 68 countries, never one disappointing moment.

"So on this International Women's Day with most countries facing serious challenges, some in crisis, we look around the world and ask, 'As leaders who are women, what is the one common leadership imperative we all share, that is uniquely our own?'

"I believe it is that each of us will exemplify in our own lives, in our own work, the positive model of a leader who is a woman, for girls growing up today. If we believe that 'changing lives' is one part of our calling, and 'to serve is to live,' the other, then we are ready to respond to a new call to serve.

"Today, all around us are girls and young women, growing up in one of the most difficult periods in our history for young people. This challenge offers remarkable opportunities for all of us who are leaders and women to be role models, mentors, friends, positive examples of what they can be, positive inspiring examples for girls and young women growing up in the turbulence of today's world.

"I have mentored a young Coast Guard Commander for 12 years, a young Chinese student for ten years and others along the way. The experience is rich and rewarding. And it is circular. I learn as much from the young women I mentor, advise, as they do from me.

'What better way to celebrate International Women's Day?"

Organizations to Support

How are you celebrating International Women's Day? What organizations do you support that work for the betterment of women, especially in the area of mentorship? Let us know in the comments.


Photo: Thinkstock/Getty Images

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March 6, 2011 at 7:48 am
(1) Amy Eisenstein says:

Great post – especially the specific call to action at the end. I worked for a Big Brother’s Big Sisters chapter in NJ as a consultant and they are a fantastic organization, and in need of more volunteer mentors (men and women)!

March 6, 2011 at 8:35 am
(2) nonprofit says:

Thanks for your comment, Amy!

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