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IN THE NEWS - International Women's Day

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This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Program IN THE NEWS.

Next Saturday is International Women's Day. The United Nations says it will observe the day with a meeting to honor the women of Afghanistan.

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U-N officials say the event will celebrate the spirit, heroism and survival power of Afghan women who were severely oppressed under the Taleban rulers. Organizers say the event will also be used to make known the needs of Afghan women. And, they say delegates will discuss ways in which Afghan females can take part in re-building peace, security and Afghan society.

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The opening ceremony will include a short movie about Afghan women. U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan and the current President of the U-N Security Council, Ole Peter Kolby of Norway will speak. Delegates also will hear from Laura Bush, the wife of President Bush.

The idea for an international day to honor women reportedly began in the United States. The United Nations says one of the first organized actions by working women anywhere took place in New York City March Eighth, Eighteen-Fifty-Seven. Women who worked in clothing factories demonstrated against poor working conditions. The Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women's Day in Nineteen-Oh-Nine. One year later at a meeting in Denmark, the Socialist International established an International Women's Day. It honored the movement for women's rights, including the right to vote.

In Nineteen-Seventy-Five, the U-N began celebrating March Eighth as International Women's Day. The U-N says the day is a time to examine progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of bravery by women important in the history of women's rights.

This year, a number of experts will discuss Afghan women's issues at the observance at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Sima Wali is one of them. She is president of Refugee Women in Development.

Mizz Wali was a delegate to the U-N peace talks on Afghanistan. She also helped lead a conference of Afghan women last December in Brussels. The U-N Development Fund for Women and the government of Belgium organized the conference. The final statement of the meeting called on the international community to support Afghan women in seeking rights and leadership positions in the efforts to re-build Afghanistan. The delegates also agreed to declare on International Women's Day that for women "Afghanistan is Everywhere."

Many countries are planning events to celebrate International Women's Day this year. There will be music, speeches, marches and demonstrations to observe the continuing struggle by women for equality, justice, peace and development.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.

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