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World Marks International Women's Day


World leaders and international organizations are calling for more rights and opportunities for women in order to help solve many of the world's problems.

The calls come as many parts of the world mark International Women's Day on Monday.

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are hosting a reception at the White House Monday to mark the occasion.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said Monday that peace and stability "can only be achieved with the participation of women as equal partners with men." At an event last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world body's goals "stand in jeopardy" because women are still subject to poverty and discrimination.

Women's Day was first celebrated in the United States in 1909. Two years later, more than 1 million people attended events in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland during the first International Women's Day.

Today, Women's Day is observed as a national holiday in some countries, celebrating the progress women have made. Many countries also use the day to acknowledge the obstacles women still face, including poverty, sexual abuse and lack of education.

The United Nations reports that 1 billion people worldwide live in extreme poverty and the majority of them are female. It says one in five women worldwide will be the victim of a sexual assault in her lifetime.

More than 130 million women in Africa and other areas of the world have been subjected to female genital mutilation for cultural reasons.

In Afghanistan, the public health minister says every 30 minutes, a woman in that country dies from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Zahurul Alam, VOA correspondent from Dhaka, has more regarding Bangladesh's acknowledgement of International Women's Day.

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