Every March 8 International Womens Day is a bit of a blur. There are so many great events celebrating that day and, although I try, I cant get to all of them. I must say that I do wish two somewhat contradictory things that these events were stretched out over a longer period of time and that we wouldnt need to think about a womens day or month because the importance of women is so ingrained in all the work that we do.

Having said that (phew), I did go to an amazing array of events in less than a week: the US State Departments Women of Courage Awards, the International Republican Institutes Womens Democracy Network lunch, the Daily Beast/Newsweek Women of the World Summit, and an event I moderated at the Sewall-Belmont House on women and the Arab Spring.

And, so while overwhelmed by so many courageous women, and two Nobel Prize winners, I was struck by how many of these women were courageous for a deceptively simple act. Women like Zin Mar Aung from Burma, who was imprisoned for 11 years for delivering documents; like Hana El Hebskhi from Libya for documenting the violence and tumult of the Libyan revolution; like Noorjahan Akbar, from Afghanistan, who is a co-founder of a group that started the first womens internet caf in Kabul.

We often see people as courageous in hindsight. One lesson I learned from listening to all of the stories is that we all have the capacity for taking that first courageous step and moving forward to challenge barriers that restrict women and men from fully participating in their families, communities and countries. I hope that we all learn that lesson ourselves and pass it along to everyone we can.