This month we celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 and the kick-off of the 59th UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Both of these events happen every year. But this year is special.
2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the landmark framework on women’s health and rights. This is where our rallying cry, “women’s rights are human rights,” originated (though the concept has been around a lot longer than 20 years!). It’s also the basis of our My Body My Rights campaign, which seeks to accelerate progress on comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights, issues that still have a long way to go. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Violence devastates the lives of millions of women and girls worldwide every year (Photo Credit: Mahmud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)
There’s little doubt that you’ve repeatedly heard about the incessant global epidemic of violence against women and girls; I am certain you’ve seen one too many horrific headlines highlighting unthinkable instances of gender-based violence around the world.
Like me, you’re also undoubtedly distressed by the violence and simultaneously weary of the struggle to end it. It is overwhelming and daunting to grasp how we can work to effectively end this widespread human rights abuse.
But we cannot give up on our efforts. With every day that passes, violence continues to devastate the lives of countless more women and girls in every part of the world. We must continue to push for a solution. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Each year on International Women’s Day, the world celebrates the acts of courage and determination of women worldwide. It’s a global celebration of the accomplishments, legacy, and rights of women.
What International Women’s Day also highlights, however, is the continued struggle for women’s rights. And no one knows that better than women’s rights defenders like Bahareh Hedayat of Iran and Norma Cruz of Guatemala. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
“We will not abandon you, we will stand with you always . . . [it is] essential that women’s rights and women’s opportunities are not sacrificed or trampled in the reconciliation process.” -U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton speaking to female Afghan officials in 2010
President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s legacy on women’s human rights will face a defining moment with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
When the U.S. and NATO entered Afghanistan in 2001, one of the justifications of the mission was to ensure the protection of human rights, including women’s rights. More than ten years later, peace talks between the Taliban, the Afghan government and the U.S. jeopardize women’s human rights.
So where is the Obama Administration’s plan to protect and advance human rights in Afghanistan?
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Saudi women wait for their drivers outside a shopping mall in Riyadh. © AFP/Getty Images
Having recently won the right to vote, Saudi women activists now are driving to end discrimination and demand all of their human rights.
Saudi women are responding positively to a royal decree granting them the right to vote, but they insist that they will not settle for partial rights. One of their most pressing targets is a continuing ban on their right to drive. “[Winning the vote] is a good sign, and we have to take advantage of it, but we still need more rights,” stated Maha al-Qahtani, one of the women who recently defied the ban on driving.
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From the moment protests began in Egypt on January 25, women have been on the frontlines, demanding respect for the human rights of all Egyptians.
On Tuesday, in honor of International Women’s Day, women assembled in Tahrir Square to claim their human rights, the Washington Post reported. However, the demonstration was marred by an angry mob of men who beat and sexually assaulted the female marchers, insisting that a woman could never be president and objecting to women’s demands to have a role in drafting a new constitution.
Image: © Ramy Raoof
The Washington Post reported, “Everyone was chased. Some were beaten. They were touching us everywhere,’ said Dina Abou Elsoud, organizer of the ambitiously named Million Woman March.”
In contrast to the status of women in Ancient Egypt, a period in Egyptian history which gave rise to powerful female leaders such as Queen Hatshepsut and Queen Cleopatra, women in Egypt today are underrepresented and sexually harassed. The gender-based violence seen in Tahrir square on Tuesday points to the long and difficult struggle that still lies ahead for women in Egypt to fully enjoy their rights.
According to a survey conducted by the Egyptian Center for Women’s rights, 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed in Egypt. In addition, “20,000 women or girls [are] raped every year,” as cited in an article by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
After she moved into a makeshift shelter in Dessalines Square, Champ-de-Mars, Haiti, “Suzie” and her friend were gang raped in front of their shelter.
“After they left I didn’t do anything….I don’t know where there is a clinic offering medical treatment for victims of violence.”
Because she was blindfolded, Suzie didn’t go to the police because she didn’t know who the men were that raped her. She told Amnesty International that the police patrol the streets, but she’s never seen them inside the camp.
In the Haitian camps there are many women and girls like Suzie. It is therefore vitally important that both the international community and the Haitian government take immediate action to treat the issue of violence against women as a priority for the humanitarian and reconstruction effort in Haiti. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo issued a statement during her visit to the U.S. scrutinizing the U.S. for its continued failure to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence crimes against Native American and Alaska Native women and girls.
Consistent with Amnesty International’s findings in 2007’s “Maze of Injustice” report documenting the epidemic of sexual violence in Indian Country, Manjoo met with tribal leaders and advocates, who confirmed Amnesty’s own findings – including Department of Justice statistics citing that 86% of perpetrators of sexual violence against Native women and girls are in fact, non-Native men.
This horrific statistic is an all too familiar, frightening daily reality for Native women – particularly as tribal courts still have no jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native offenders, often leaving survivors of sexual violence without access to justice or redress for crimes committed against them.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day all this week, it is all too clear that the U.S. still has a long way to go in addressing this epidemic of sexual violence against Indigenous women here in the U.S.
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Mother and child outside her home in Hopley Settlement, Harare, Zimbabwe.
Lack of access to appropriate prenatal and post-natal care in informal settlements in Zimbabwe is endangering mothers and increasing infant mortality rates. Forced into unsafe dwellings with no heat or running water when the government displaced 700,000 people in 2005, for women in these Zimbabwe communities pregnancy is a scary proposition.
According to Amnesty International research, “Although thousands of people have been living at Hopley for more than five years, there are no maternal or newborn health services in the community. Women often give birth in unhygienic conditions in their plastic shacks and without skilled birth attendants. In order to reach maternal health services, women have to travel to a municipal clinic in the suburb of Glen Norah, about 8km away.”
There is no ambulance service to these communities, forcing women to walk to the clinic while in labor because they cannot afford a taxi or bus. Women frequently give birth at home, unaided and alone. The women Amnesty interviewed stated they were aware of the importance of medical care during pregnancy and after delivery, but due to costs and inaccessibility, they were not able to seek this vital healthcare. Inability to afford healthcare affects 75% of women in the lowest five wealth groups in Zimbabwe, of which most of the residents in these informal settlements fall.
Further, 45% of mothers in Zimbabwe have no access to a postnatal check by a trained health provider. Amnesty International documented the deaths of 21 infants in a six month period in 2010. Adequate living conditions and access to necessary health services after delivery could have prevented many of these deaths.
We need to demand the Zimbabwean government takes care of its women and children. Tell government officials of the importance of providing affordable healthcare, placed in the community. No more women should have to give birth alone and then watch their babies die.
By the time you finish reading this post, one woman will have died due to conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Around the world, one woman dies every 90 seconds in pregnancy or childbirth-that’s more than 350,000 women every year. And here in the United States, more than two women die every day.
These deaths are a human rights violation. Why? Because women are not dying of diseases that doctors cannot cure, but because societies have yet to decide that their lives are worth saving.
As part of our celebration of International Women’s Day, we recognize the women all around the world who die while trying to give life.
In the United States, women have a higher risk of dying of pregnancy-related complications than women in 49 other countries, including Kuwait, Bulgaria, and South Korea. In addition, African American women are nearly four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications than white women. Amnesty International found that most of these deaths could have been prevented with access to good quality health care.
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