Tag Archives: Women for Women International

Why Do We Need an International Women’s Day?

Guest article from Women for Women UK

“I cannot make up my mind about International Women’s Day – I love it and I hate it. International Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight injustice, inequality and the need for change, but we need to do that every day! Women’s rights are not just for 8 March, just like a puppy is not just for Christmas!” – Brita Fernandez Schmidt, Executive Director for Women for Women International

LONDON, UK – 6 March 2013

Why do we need an International Women’s Day? – After all, there is no International Men’s Day. The answer is not as simple as it appears at first glance. Why do we need one day a year that reminds us of how important women are to society when it should be obvious and we should acknowledge it every day?

However, having an International Women’s Day is also a sign of how far we have advanced in our strive to create a society where women and men have equal rights and equal access to resources. Why? Because up until recently, we did not have this day, or the right to vote, or legislation outlawing violence against women, the list is so long. For me International Women’s Day is a day where we should celebrate how far we have come – a day that symbolises that change is possible.

103 years ago a woman named Clara Zetkin (Leader of the ‘Women’s Office’ for the Social Democratic Party in Germany) tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day. She proposed that every year in every country on the same day there should be a celebration – a Women’s Day and occasion to press for women’s demands. The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, representing unions, socialist parties, working women’s clubs, and including the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament, greeted Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval and thus International Women’s Day was created. Today, it is still a day where we call for change and for equality. And today, it is also a day where we are connected – all over the world – not just in the demands we make, but also in our celebrations of all we have achieved.

Because on this day the media can and will focus on women, it is an important moment to shine the light on women’s stories, their needs and the challenges and injustices we still face today. As an organisation that focuses on women and their plight in countries affected by conflict every day of the year, Women for Women International too will use this opportunity to highlight injustice, inequality and the need for change.

I would like you to think of the women in South Sudan, their hopes and dreams for their new country, and more than anything their hope for peace. And I ask you to reach out and invest in this hope and help us support more women in South Sudan on International Women’s Day. But I also ask you to do this after the day is over. Because unlike politicians who use International Women’s Day as an opportunity to make announcements around women and equality to have the box ticked until next year, I am going to tick the box every day

I cannot make up my mind about International Women’s Day. I love it and I hate it. I think we need more publicity about women, their role in society, their thoughts and experiences but we need that every day. I think we need more opportunities to connect worldwide and show ourselves, and of course the other 49% of the world population, that we are not alone, that there is strength in numbers and that if we connect, change becomes more possible.

So here it is then – let’s celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8 March but let’s also celebrate on the 9th and the 10th and all the rest of the days and let’s remind ourselves of women and their rights every day. In fact, let’s commit to that on International Women’s Day – that women’s rights are not just for 8 March, just like a puppy is not just for Christmas!

Read more about Women for Women UK at www.womenforwomen.org.uk.

Photo: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

Short Documentary Made by Four Iraqi Women Highlights New Challenges

Women for Women International The following is a guest post from Women for Women International.

Forty years ago Iraqi women and men were equal under the law. Since the early 1990s however, women have seen their rights curtailed and their participation in areas of society and freedom of expression dramatically inhibited. There has been a sharp decline in female literacy, women are discriminated against in the law by giving men privileged status in divorce and inheritance matters, and ‘public morality’ campaigns have specifically targeted women. Women who take part in public roles and have a voice in civil society, such as politicians, civil servants and journalists, have been threatened, beaten and sexually assaulted. Women are finding it more and more difficult to go out alone and, in addition to that, many women suffer violence at the hands of their fathers, brothers and other relatives. For example, a survey by the UN found that 68% of young Iraqi men surveyed believe it’s acceptable to kill a girl for ‘profaning a family’s honor.’

Four women who are graduates of Women for Women International’s year-long holistic training program, (which includes practical classes in life, business, and vocational skills), recently made a short documentary film to tell their stories and share their perspectives one year after the withdrawal of the troops.

“We wanted to make this film because we want our voices to be heard. Iraqi women are strong and they need to know that they have rights and that they can use them to make their lives and those of their families better,” says Nihayet, a graduate of the Women for Women International programme, and assistant camera operator.

The film titled “Hands of Hope” explores how women are overcoming the challenges they face, to lead change in their families and communities.

“Our economic difficulties were the greatest challenge we faced,” says Zainab. “But I was able to overcome them because of what I learned during the Women for Women International program.”

Zainab, an Iraqi mother of three was facing financial hardship as her husband’s low wages were barely enough to cover their family’s basic needs. The business training Zainab took part in allowed her to learn a vocational skill, earn an income from tailoring and have greater influence in family and community decision-making. Now Zainab has started her own sewing business and is able to regularly put money aside to save for the future.

Women for Women International hears all too often how women survivors of war feel they are forgotten, that their voices are not heard, and that their perspectives are not valued. Zainab, Nihayet and their fellow film makers challenge the stereotype of passive victim, to share their stories of survival with you directly. Watch and share their message now.

Women for Women International is launching an urgent appeal for donations to meet the demand for the year long vocational programme in Iraq and the seven other countries where we work. Between 25 November and 10 December all donations made to Women for Women International will be matched pound for pound by a generous group of supporters. This means that all gifts will go twice as far to support the many women who are rebuilding their lives after conflict and war. Go to www.womenforwomen.org.uk to find out more

Vaccine Effectiveness – 1980 Through Today

In listening to a talk last week in Atlanta given by Dr. Jacob Kumaresan, the Executive Director, WHO Office at the United Nations in New York, I learned a fascinating statistic about vaccine effectiveness.

In 1980 before the mass roll-out of vaccines there was one child death per second from deadly, yet preventable diseases like pneumonia, rotavirus, and measles. By 2000 the death rate was one death per minute. By 2010 the death rate was one death every four minutes. That shows progress, but the number of child deaths is still too high. By 2015 the United Nations has called for a reduction of child deaths by 2/3. Recent data by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund shows that MDG #4 (Child health) likely will not be reached, but that does not mean progress should slow.

One of the highest priorities in the global health community is to vaccinate children. In fact, it is one of the best global health buys to keep children alive.

“Immunizations have the power to save lives and transform lives,” said Kumaresan. “We can give the opportunity for a child to be healthy and grow without diseases.”

According to Kumaresan in 2010 109 million children were vaccinated with the DPT vaccine that fights against diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. 19.3 million children did not receive the vaccines and 70% of those children live in 10 developing countries.

The ultimate goal of global health agencies is to increase the vaccination rate to 90% worldwide in order eradicate these preventable diseases. In the developing world, however, there are challenges intrinsic to immunizing children. Many people live in informal settlements (slums) and in war-torn areas making vaccinations in this areas difficult.

Since 2010 the GAVI Alliance has supported the immunization of 3.6 million children with the pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumonia is the leading cause of death for children under the age of five. GAVI’s mission is to save children’s lives in poor countries through immunization.

The Measles & Rubella Initiative

Five key partners make up the Measles Rubella Initiative including the American Red Cross, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United Nations Children’s Fund, United Nations Foundation and World Health Organization. These partners have set a strategic plan to reduce measles and rubella to zero by 2020 in at least five WHO regions. According to WHO the plan will be implemented through:

  • high vaccination coverage;
  • monitoring spread of disease using laboratory-backed surveillance;
  • outbreak preparedness and response and measles case management;
  • communication and community engagement; and
  • research and development.

The goal is within reach. In fact sub-Saharan Africa made saw a significant 85% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2010 due to vaccinations.

“It’s a moral imperative in today’s world,” said Kumeresan. “Every child should be reached. We need to make vaccines accessible and affordable to the people who need it.”

Women for Women’s Successful Join Me on the Bridge Campaign

You might remember last week that we spread the word about Women for Women International’s Join Me on the Bridge campaign. We are thrilled to announce that Women for Women International wrote to say that our social media push helped them “reach tens of thousands of people, which is truly incredible!”

Our contact at Women for Women International also wrote this morning to say, “thanks to all your members for the amazing work you put in.”

Join Me on the Bridge had over 200 events spread over all 7 continents – including Antarctica! The first Bridge event was led by 200 brave Afghan women marching through Kabul despite great personal risk, an inspirational start to the campaign.

Watch a recap video of the Join Me on the Bridge events that took place last week.

Join Me on the Bridge – Women for Women International

Right now, as I write this, there is a woman who is being ravaged by the atrocities of war. She is like many women whose lives have been irreparably damaged by war and like countless women around the world she teeters on the brink of having lost everything, having no voice and no hope. Thankfully, Women for Women International works tirelessly for these women.

We are thrilled to have partnered with Women for Women International to spread the word about their annual event celebrating International Women’s Day: Join Me on the Bridge on March 8.

Women for Women International provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies. They are changing the world one woman at a time.

They work with socially excluded women in eight countries where war and conflict have devastated lives and communities. Each woman we serve has her own story—some of loved ones murdered, and others of physical and emotional trauma. Most have endured a struggle for survival.

On March 8 women around the world will be gathering on bridges in solidarity to express hope and peace for the future. If you would like to stand in support of women in war ravaged countries, visit JoinMeOnTheBridge.org to find an event near you. And make sure to tweet with the #Bridge12 hashtag.

Photo Copyright: Join Me on the Bridge/ Women for Women International