International Women’s Day

08/03/2011 Comments Off on International Women’s Day

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day! Congratulations to all the women of the world – for their activism, their strength, their persistence, and for surviving to live another day.

We women have a lot to celebrate. If we look at the condition of women 100 years ago, we could say we’ve never had it so good. But not all of us can say that.

For example, the 358,000 women who died from pregnancy-related causes in the previous 12 months because there was no emergency obstetric care when they needed it. They can’t say it. Or the almost 22 million women who had unsafe abortions in the past year, of whom some 5 million ended up in a hospital with complications, in spite of the existence of safe, simple inexpensive methods that could have made their abortions safe. They have a lot to be angry about.

And then there are the women who experienced so-called intimate partner violence during their most recent pregnancy, the prevalence of which, in a recent study RHM published with data from 19 countries, ranged from 2% to 13.5% of all pregnant women. Yes, women have to work very hard to survive to live another day.

I was clearing out a shelf in a bookcase last night and came across a March 1988 copy of Spare Rib, a UK feminist magazine, which was dedicated to International Women’s Day too. Here are some of the images from its pages – proof that with all our activism, we are still battling with the same issues – sexuality, abortion, unemployment, violence against women.

Protest sign reading 'National Health not National Wealth'

Health service protest, Spare Rib, March 1988

Abortion demonstration, Spare Rib, March 1988

Abortion demonstration, Spare Rib, March 1988

Abortion: every woman's right

Abortion article, Spare Rib, March 1988

Protest sign reading 'We are staying out - Lesbian Pride'

Placard, Spare Rib, March 1988

At the same time, below is an image that arrived in my inbox yesterday, from Chile. Young women marching to the future, laughing, optimistic, together. The text says that the rights of women have been won through struggle. And it asks: On this international women’s day, what will you commit yourself to?

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