The world marks International Women’s Day today, an annual celebration that highlights their economic, political and social achievements.The day was marked for the first time in the early 1900s. More than 1 million women and men attended rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911, according to the United Nations. They demanded that women be given the right to vote and to hold public office, and an end to job discrimination.While a celebration of progress, International Women’s Day is also a time to acknowledge the struggles women still grapple with around the globe. In India, angry protests disrupted the Parliament several times Monday in a bid to thwart a landmark bill that would reserve one-third of the seats in federal and state legislatures for women. While the president is a woman — Pratibha Devisingh Patil is India’s first female president — women make up just 11 percent of the members of the lower house of the Indian Parliament. On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed to work for greater female representation in the country’s democratic process, citing Women’s Day as a time to “reaffirm our government’s commitment to all-round social, economic and political empowerment of our women.”
Half of India’s female population cannot read or write, authorities say.In Iran, female activists were honored Sunday by Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi, in celebration of International Women’s Day. About 30 of Iran’s most prominent women’s rights activists and their supporters held a private gathering in Tehran. Rahnavard declared that the women’s opposition movement was still alive. She said the movement would not forget the sacrifices by women who were jailed, beaten or died in the post-election protests last year. Women, treated as second-class citizens under Iranian law, were noticeably front and center at the massive demonstrations after the disputed election in June.