Desai: On March 8, Remember Women's Rights Are Human Rights

Since 1975, the United Nations has marked March 8 as International Women's Day, in recognition of "the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women."

For International Women's Day 2012, Asia Society President Vishakha N. Desai weighs in with the following thoughts:

"On the historic occasion of International Women's Day, it's sad to see that despite huge economic progress in parts of South Asia, we have not made enough dent in truly understanding that women's rights are human rights.

"One could argue that in fact, economic modernization and social regression may be related. The more people feel their own values are being challenged by rapid modernization, the more they try to cling to something like a security blanket.

"Let us resolve, as concerned citizens of the world and as women in leadership positions, that we will work to help our sisters who have little opportunity and fewer privileges than all of us."

In honor of International Women's Day, Asia Society New York held a morning panel discussion centered on which approaches to microfinance, health, education and gender equality training can help women in Asia improve their lot. Speakers included Jeroo Billimoria, Managing Director, ChildFinance; Founder and Vice-Chair, Aflatoun, and Chair, CHI; Susan Davis, President and CEO, BRAC USA; and Ann Miles, Director, Microfinance, The MasterCard Foundation. David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World and the "Fixes" column in the New York Times, moderated the conversation, which also included a presentation by Zoe Timms, Executive Director of the Women's Education Project.

In one highlight of the discussion, Jeroo Billimoria explained how educating young people in the basics of finance at an early age can help pull them from a life of poverty. Watch the clip below (2 min., 6 sec.), and watch the complete program here.

About the Author

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Jeff Tompkins is New York Content Manager at Asia Society.