ISLAMABAD: International Women's Day will be observed today across the world including Pakistan to celebrate women's achievements throughout history and across the nations.
It is also known as the United Nations (UN) Day for Women's Rights and International Peace. Thousands of events celebrated not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities and women's groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.
Recognizing the critical role and contribution of rural women, the theme of International Women's Day 2012 is "Empower Rural Women -End Hunger and Poverty".
In some parts of the world, women represent 70 percent of the agricultural workforce, comprising 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide.
Estimates reveal that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent, lifting 100-150 million out of hunger.
Healthcare, education, gender inequality and limited access to credit, however, have posed a number of challenges for rural women. Further, the global food and economic crisis and climate change have aggravated the situation. It is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls.
Yet, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates reveal that productivity gains from ensuring equal access to fertilizers, seeds and tools for women could reduce the number of hungry people by between 100 million and 150 million.
Much progress has been made to protect and promote women's rights in recent times. However, nowhere in the world can women claim to have all the same rights and opportunities as men, according to the UN.
The majority of the world's 1.3 billion absolute poor are women. On average, women receive between 30 and 40 percent less pay than men earn for the same work. Women also continue to be victims of violence, with rape and domestic violence listed as significant causes of disability and death among women worldwide.
In 1975, during International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating 8 March as International Women's Day. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights.
The day aimed to help nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women. It also focused on helping women gain full and equal participation in global development.