Celebrating women and promoting gender equality

By Azka Asif, Rotary Programs Staff

Today, International Women’s Day, the world is celebrating the progress we’ve made towards gender equality and empowering women. Although much has been accomplished, there is still much more to be done.

TFotorCreatedo learn how we can assist the Rotary family in supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, and 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning, a group of staff from Rotary International attended a Women’s Day Global Health Symposium in Chicago. We were inspired by the strong speakers who shared about how they are working to elevate the status of girls and women around the world.

We hope our reflections below will encourage you to continue promoting gender equality across all of our communities through your clubs and districts:

Women, girls and peace

“I was particularly interested in the panel discussion on Women and Girls in Crisis Zones because of Rotary’s investment in peace. Learning that human traffickers, many of who target girls and women, have the mobility and means to arrive on the scene of a disaster zone within 24 hours, prior to many relief agencies, was an alarming fact.  E. Anne Peterson, Senior Vice President of Global Programs at AmeriCares, emphasized the need for NGOs and government agencies to be prepared to provide protection to vulnerable populations during this critical 24-hour period, even before the delivery of food and medical aid.”  Sarah Cunningham, Rotary Peace Centers

Maternal and child health

“I was moved by the work of Dr. Pat Mosena, President and Founder of Options for Youth, an organization that works in vulnerable neighborhoods in Chicago. I was particularly taken with the Subsequent Pregnancy Program (SPP,) a community based approach to assist first-time adolescent mothers in becoming self-sufficient before choosing to have another child. SPP focuses on developing long term relationships with home mentors. The work Options for Youth is doing is outstanding– it is vital that the needs of young mothers, many from low income and vulnerable situations, are attended to.”  Cate Sauer, RI Programs  

“I was inspired by the UNICEF Kid Power initiative. By getting active, kids can go on missions, earn points and unlock therapeutic food packets for malnourished children around the world. It’s a fun way to get our kids moving and can be easily integrated into schools. The statistics shared with us about youth inactivity are troubling. I appreciate the added connection they’ve made to also teach kids about new cultures and allow them an opportunity to make a difference. I went home and bought one for both my daughter and me.”  – Rebeca Mendoza, Rotary Grants

Creating leaders through sports

Personally, I was inspired by Katayoun Khosrowyar, the coach of Iran’s first under 14 girl’s national soccer team. Katayoun is empowering young girls who’ve been told their whole lives only boys are allowed to play soccer and pursue their dreams. Through sports, girls learn leadership skills as well as team work. Girls and women who play sports are more confident, have a more positive body image and higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports. I think it’s very important to encourage girls to follow their dreams and create young leaders that will grow up to do great things.


Join Rotary today at 1 p.m. CST Chicago time for an International Women’s Day live streamed panel with the World Bank on the power of women to change the world and improve lives through innovative and impactful projects. Follow the #RotaryWomen hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to read inspiring stories of Rotary Women in Action.

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