Women on the march

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This week included a celebration of International Women's Day — not exactly a holiday as well-known as others, but important nonetheless.

One-hundred-and-seven years ago, 15,000 garment workers — mostly female immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe — marched in New York for labor rights. Then, after a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910, the idea emerged that a day be set aside once a year to honor the women's rights movement.

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We should be marching again on behalf of women and girls around the world this week. A century after the start of this holiday, women continue to face discrimination in access to work and economic assets, as well as participation in private and public decision-making. Women continue to be disproportionately negatively affected by conflict in their countries. Women and girls face physical insecurity with high rates of rape, violence and sexual trafficking.

It is 2016 and, simply put, there are too many unacceptable statistics when it comes to women worldwide.

Here are a few to think about.

It is unacceptable that women are more likely to live in poverty than men. According to the United Nations, there are many reasons for this, including "unequal access to paid work, lower earnings, lack of social protection and limited access to assets, including land, credit and property." Even where women are equally as likely to live in poor households as men, they are more likely to be deprived in other important areas of well-being, such as education and healthcare.

It is unacceptable that young women continue to be disproportionately affected by limited employment opportunities and unemployment and that they earn less wherever they live. Despite their progress in education, women face a more difficult transition to paid work and receive lower earnings than men. Worldwide, women earn 24 percent less than men, with the largest disparities found in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Of 92 countries with data on unemployment rates by level of education for 2012–2013, in 78 countries women with advanced education have higher rates of unemployment than men with similar levels of education.

It is unacceptable that one in three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime.

It is unacceptable that an estimated 233 million women of reproductive age lack access to contraceptive services they would like to use.

It is unacceptable that there are more than 175 current heads of state in the world and only 18 of them are women.

It is unacceptable that in 2016, we have a gender gap in access to technology with over 1.7 billion females in low- and middle-income countries not owning mobile phones. (Women, on average, are 14 percent less likely to own a mobile phone than men, creating a gender gap of 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones.)

As we watch an election unfold in the United States, with the possibility of a first female president, it is timely to step back and ask: Are we far enough along in the global fight for equal rights? Around the world, too many women and girls are deprived of basic rights: access to schools, access to credit, the right to participate in political life, the right to inherit land, the right to equal treatment under the law, equal pay.

It is nice to celebrate progress. But let's get to work on making more of it.

Sonenshine served as under secretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs and lectures at George Washington University.

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