The women of tomorrow are entering adolescence today. We know it can be one of the most challenging times in these girls' lives. Let's make sure they have the tools and support they need to overcome these challenges.
Three years ago, a group of school-children scrawled political graffiti on a wall in the remote Syrian town of Daraa. Their subsequent arrest and torture was the spark that ignited the civil war now ravaging Syria and devastating the lives of so many of its 22 million people. This civil war is now thought to have spawned the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Much has been reported in recent months about providing food to families who are struggling to make ends meet, but unfortunately there is a much broader and deeper side to this story: a desperate need for everyday essentials, items that are getting left off the weekly shop long before people turn to food hand-outs.
Things are truly desperate. Two out of every three people in Yarmouk are now said to be suffering malnutrition, and at least 128 people have starved to death since last July.
Imagine the horrors of healthcare in a warzone: children having limbs amputated because of a lack of medical supplies and equipment to treat their wounds. Patients knocked out with iron bars, rather than face an operation without anaesthetic. A newborn baby dying in an incubator because of power-cuts... For millions of people inside Syria - this is the reality of their lives now.
While the day was meant to be an opportunity to inspire a generation to become global and active citizens, the message that the day purported revealed a dark side to our desire to help those in the developing world.
While there is still work to do here too, I easily count myself lucky to be a woman in the UK. I have three grandsons and I hope that my next grandchild will be a girl. If I was a woman in Afghanistan, I would want all my grandchildren to be boys. On International Women's Day let our mantra be that if it isn't good enough for women here then it isn't good enough for women anywhere.
To celebrate International Women's Day I went to Africa with Sport Relief earlier this week to visit two projects working hard to empower young women living in the continent's biggest slum. Here are the eight things that inspired me the most during my time in Nairobi, Kenya...
There are a huge number of activities going on around the world to improve the situation for women, and there are places where men are working with women to achieve this. There's no doubt that this movement is gaining momentum and makes nonsense of the idea that men cannot see women as equals. It's an outdated way of thinking, and increasingly governments, businesses, communities and families are all coming to recognise the positive benefits to be had when women and men are working together and treating each other as equal partners. Of the numerous ways to change women's lives for the better, I've picked out five things that you can do to help make that change today:
It is your first International Women's Day. At seven months old, you are oblivious to the notion that our sex has struggled for equality. You do not know this day has been marked out in calendars annually for over a century. You understand nothing of the battle women fought to be treated fairly.
I have just returned from 3 days in Kosovo visiting our Women for Women International (WFWI) Programme which focuses on giving socially excluded, poor women access to knowledge and resources, to help them build better lives for them, their families and community.
I am a 26-year-old married mother of five children, including 4 boys and one girl. Growing up, my family was very poor. My father was unemployed, and my mother cultivated land for other people. My mother had 12 children, including myself, but six of my older siblings died. Because my parents could not afford tuition fees for me, I stopped school after 4th grade. Instead, I worked to cultivate my family's fields.
I am an ordinary woman living in Rukara Sector of Kayonza District. My life used to be very hard, the only source of revenue was coming from tailoring from which I could not even raise enough money to sustain our basic needs. Even the sewing machine I was using I was renting for 3,000 Rwandan francs a month.
During the war, my family (my husband, five children and parents-in-law) and I were forced by the Serb police to leave our house. We had no choice but try to escape to Albania. On our way there the Serb forces maltreated us in different ways, by searching us, threatening to kill us etc. But fortunately we managed to cross the border and go to Albania.
One day we received news that an organization called Women for Women started enrolling women in life skills renewal program. I thought there was nothing to be renewed after all those lives have been lost.
Many struggle to be patient with their children when they skip meals so they can feed them first. Some care for relatives in demanding physical ways in spite of lack of food. Others go to work each day on an empty stomach, earning their way but still with inadequate resource to pay for food, rent and heating. It is a national scandal.