Tell the United Nations: Protect #MyBodyMyRights!

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I’ve just come from opening week at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), when thousands of women’s rights activists and member state delegations descend on New York to review the current state of affairs for women and girls globally and recommend actions states can take to advance gender equality and promote female empowerment.

Many of the events this week are calling attention to sexual and reproductive rights as a primary barrier to development progress and the enjoyment of rights and dignity for all. The priority theme for the CSW this year is a review of progress for women and girls under the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

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This Mother’s Day, It Was Motherhood, Not Rape, That Made Congo the Worst Place to Be a Woman

Save the Children's "State of the World's Mothers" report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world's worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

Save the Children’s “State of the World’s Mothers” report has named the Democratic Republic of Congo as the world’s worst place to be a mother (Photo Credit: Leon Sadiki/City Press/Gallo Images/Getty Images).

In honor of Mother’s Day, Save the Children released its annual “State of the World’s Mothers” report. I was saddened, but not surprised to see the Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst place to be a mother.

Severe violations of women’s human rights in Congo are, unfortunately, a perennial subject of attention for me and numerous other rights activists. Typically those violations are associated with the long and bloody conflict that has spanned the country and concentrated in its most recent stages in the East.

Indeed, DRC has been plagued by almost two decades of conflict resulting in the suffering and death of millions of men, women and children. Most chillingly, the Congo conflict has become synonymous with rape and other forms of sexual violence, which are committed with impunity by security forces, including the armed forces of the DRC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo, FARDC), and other armed groups. For this reason, it was ranked the worst place to be a woman by the United Nations just last year.

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Join Amnesty's Inaugural Forum on Women's Rights Online

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Violence against women and girls and other forms of gender discrimination devastate the lives of millions of women and do not distinguish among nation, culture, or creed.

One in three women worldwide has been beaten, raped, or abused in her lifetime. Maternal mortality rates have actually risen in the US, and remain scandalously high around the world, with a woman dying a pregnancy-related death every 90 seconds. Lack of access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care contributes to maternal mortality, sexually transmitted infections and other ill-health outcomes. Women continue to suffer disproportionately during armed conflict, accounting for 90% of all civilian casualties.

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Is Sierra Leone’s Free Healthcare Program for Pregnant Women and Children Working?

By Kim Lanegran, Amnesty USA Country Specialist for Sierra Leone

sierra leone mother and babyIt’s been a little over a year since the government of Sierra Leone launched its groundbreaking free healthcare program for children and pregnant women.

While we’re thrilled about the good news — more women now receive pre and post-natal health care, over 39,000 women delivered their babies in health care facilities, and many lives have been saved — there is still a lot to be done.

Amnesty International’s new report on the Free Health Policy finds that free adequate care is simply not being delivered.

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Challenges and Opportunities for Women in the New South Sudan

via Wikipedia

On Saturday, a new nation was born: the Republic of South Sudan.

Formerly a semi-autonomous region within the Republic of Sudan, the new state is the result of a referendum on independence in which roughly 99% of the predominantly African, Christian or animist Southerners elected to split from the largely Muslim, Arab North.

For more than two decades, the two had been engaged in Africa’s longest civil war, a conflict in which staggering numbers of innocent civilians paid the price: 4 million displaced, 2 million killed and 2 million women raped.

A Violent Peace
Although a 2005 peace accord officially ended the war and guaranteed the South the right to peaceably choose whether or not to form its own state, violence continues in disputed territories of Southern Kordofan and Abyei.

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Combating Maternal Mortality Crucial To Meeting MDGs

Maternal Health in PeruMost maternal deaths are entirely preventable. Yet, while the world is making progress in fighting maternal mortality, far too many women are still losing their lives.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are the most prominent global anti-poverty initiative ever undertaken.  The goals set out targets for alleviating extreme poverty, including reducing maternal deaths by 75% (MDG5), by 2015. However, even this modest target will not be met by the deadline unless efforts are significantly stepped up.

Meeting the maternal mortality target, for example, would require a 5.5% annual reduction in maternal deaths since 1990, and the world has seen only 2.3% annual improvement.  A woman still dies from complications of pregnancy or childbirth every 90 seconds.

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