International Women's Day - Stories and Activism

By Christine Cupaiuolo — March 8, 2012

International Women’s Day is traditionally marked as a day to celebrate women’s accomplishments and advocate for gender quality. The advocate component looms large today, considering the stepped-up attacks on women’s health and human rights. A sampling of stories and activities are featured below (most of which have been excerpted from their respective websites). Feel free to add your own links in the comments.

* Reproductive Rights and Justice in the United States: Democracy Now talks with Loretta Ross of the SisterSong Reproductive Justice Collective about the latest wave of legislative attacks on reproductive rights. Virginia has enacted a controversial law forcing women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound. Lawmakers in Georgia and New Hampshire meanwhile have advanced new curbs on abortion and contraception coverage. Georgia lawmakers are also considering a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks based on the highly contested notion that fetuses can feel pain at that stage.

“In Georgia we got tossed back to the 19th century,” Ross says. “Republican legislators really didn’t want to hear from women, they didn’t want to pay attention and presumed that they could tell us what to do with our bodies again.”

Plus: For a close-up look at the effect of anti-Planned Parenthood sentiment on health care for low-income women, read today’s New York Times story on the closing of women’s health clinics in Texas.

And for a very funny look at women responding to the ridiculous assaults on women’s health and human rights, check out “International Slutty Women’s Day: A Story in GIFs” by the amazing Ann Friedman.

* Women of Courage Awards: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hosted the 2012 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony today. First Lady Michelle Obama, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer and other U.S. and foreign dignitaries also took part. Special guests this year included Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. The names and photos of this year’s honorees — a remarkable group of activists, many of whom are working on gender-based violence issues — are available here.

The International Women of Courage will now travel to 10 U.S. cities to engage with their American counterparts through the International Visitor Leadership Program. Cities include Bozeman, MT; Cincinnati, OH; East Lansing, MI; Indianapolis, IN; Jackson, WY; Kansas City, MO; Minneapolis, MN; Pensacola, FL; St. Louis, MO; Salt Lake City, UT; and Seattle, WA. Their visit to the United States began March 5 with a stop in Pittsburgh.

* Hollaback!: Support the efforts of women around the world fighting street harassment by sharing your story today at On March 22, the group will launch its new “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign.

* Women are the Fabric: A new exhibition of quilts in the lobby of the United Nations, a tribute to the enduring strength of women and a plea for the support and protection they need to take care of themselves and their communities, opens today. Women are the Fabric displays 20 quilts embedded with powerful messages and appeals for action. Some are cries of pain from women who have directly experienced sexual violence and massacres. Several express anger at the impact of war on women. One depicts the magic of a rainforest threatened by oil exploration. Together they convey the strength of women working together on shared concerns.

Women are the Fabric quilt exhibit

* Global Maternal Health and Family Planning: The International Museum of Women (IMOW) is presenting “Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby,” the newest gallery in the online exhibition MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe. The gallery showcases creative works, profiles, statistics and online advocacy steps to help support maternal health worldwide.

According to the United Nations (2010), a woman dies every 90 seconds from preventable causes during pregnancy and birth. “Healthy Mama, Healthy Baby” examines the current state of maternal health, as well as what is being done to improve upon the world’s maternal mortality rate.

* Planned Parenthood also has a global campaign focused on the fact that millions of women worldwide want to plan their births but lack access to modern contraception. Just last month in Honduras, the Supreme Court upheld a decision outlawing emergency contraception — and now, any woman or doctor found using or distributing the “morning-after” pill could face criminal prosecution and jail time.

Do anti-women’s health attacks like this sound familiar? That’s because the same people behind the attacks on Planned Parenthood and the women that it serves are attempting to eliminate health care funding and increase barriers to reproductive health care for women and mothers in countries all over the world. Watch the video and tell your legislators today — Health Has No Borders!

* RH Reality Check has published an article by Dana Hovig of Marie Stopes International and Alvaro Bermejo of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on the importance of integrating family planing and HIV services.

“It is 2012, three years before the 2015 deadline the world set for itself to reduce preventable maternal deaths and new HIV infections. If we are to reach this goal, we must act more boldly than we have up until now,” they write. “Women who are at risk of unplanned pregnancy are also at risk of HIV, and vice-versa so separation of these services no longer makes sense. The global health community must work to bring family planning and HIV services together – and quickly – to save women’s lives.”

* Also at RH Reality Check, Jessica Mack writes about the maternal health advocacy group Women Deliver, which this week named its “Women Deliver 50” — a list not of individuals, but of solutions. The list includes advocacy and awareness campaigns, educational initiatives, health interventions, and more.

“It’s not quite as sexy, true, but it’s refreshingly pragmatic,” writes Mack. “Recognizing individual change makers is important, but it is almost always the case that change happens thanks to many, many people. Why not focus on how that change happened (or is happening), so others can be inspired to think bigger and crazier, and do better work?”

* “Our Bodies, Ourselves” Worldwide: One proven solution: women learning about and sharing information about their bodies and health. Take a look at the global projects based on “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” which has now been adapted by women’s groups in dozens of countries. OBOS staff has facilitated the publication and in-country use of materials in more than 25 languages, in print, digital and socially interactive formats. Learn more about these efforts by viewing panels and discussions from OBOS’s 40th Anniversary symposium, which featured our global partners in Armenia, Bulgaria, India, and Senegal, among other countries.

One response to “International Women’s Day – Stories and Activism”

  1. Thank you for this opportunity to comment on Our Bodies. As this month, March, is Women’s History Month, I’d like to get the conversation going about women’s health, total health.

    This month, will we talk about how to reduce or eliminate fibroid tumors in our mothers, daughters, sisters?

    Will we ask why women of child-bearing age should stop eating black pepper?

    Will we talk about why more and more African American women are eating yogurt at a time when cutting back on dairy is the advice of the day?

    Will we ask questions about how to make comfort food and southern cooking healthier and compatible with our immune system?

    Let’s have these conversations in Women’s History Month and beyond. For answers to these questions and to get the conversations rolling, I suggest the reading of Sojourn to Honduras Sojourn to Healing.

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