Women’s Day 2007: We Stand With The Women Of The World
By Lucinda Marshall
03 March, 2007
the past 5000 years, give or take a century or two, there has been a
persistent tendency to leave unexamined the impact that social, economic,
environmental, and military policies have on the lives of women throughout
the world. As a result, women make up the majority of those living in
poverty, millions of women have died needlessly due to lack of healthcare
and safe living conditions and there is a worldwide pandemic of violence
For those reasons, International
Women’s Day (IWD), which is observed on March 8 is a time not
only to celebrate women’s lives and achievements, but also a chance
to join hands in solidarity with women around the globe and to focus
much needed attention on the many problems women face today.
It has been said that the
health of a society is measured by how it treats its women. With one
in three women throughout the world likely to experience sexual assault
during her lifetime, it is not a stretch to say that this society is
in crisis. In recognition of the systemic and pervasive violence that
impacts the lives of women every day, the United Nations’ theme
for its 2007 observance of IWD is “Ending Impunity for Violence
against Women.” As Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues
has pointed out, “When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury,
and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet.
You force what is meant to be open, trusting, nurturing, creative, and
alive to be bent, infertile, and broken.”
Here in the U.S. for the
sixth year in a row, President Bush’s annual budget request for
funding the Violence Against Women Act once again falls short of the
amount of its Congressional authorization. And while the President will
no doubt serve up the usual annual platitudes about honoring women on
March 8th, his administration has, as it has every year since 2001,
also requested cuts in funding for maternal and child health as well
as family planning.
half a million women worldwide will die this year from the complications
of pregnancy and childbirth, including 68,000 from illegal and unsafe
abortions. According to The Lancet, “an estimated 90% of deaths
from unsafe abortions and 20% of obstetric mortality could be avoided
with improved access to contraception. Yet the latest figures show that
donor funding for family planning has decreased by 36%.”
It is particularly ironic
that the supposedly liberated women of Afghanistan suffer the second
highest maternal mortality rate in the world with 1,600 deaths per 100,000
live births. In the U.S. more than 20 million women live in poverty
and out of 173 countries, the U.S. is one of only five countries that
has no guaranteed maternity leave. The U.S. is also one of only seven
countries that has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
The ongoing militarism that
plagues our planet is also extremely detrimental to women. Violence
during war and conflict is not incidental, it is systemic. Rape, a cheap
alternative to bullets, has always been a de facto weapon of war. Women
who are raped during conflict are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
Conflict frequently leaves women without homes, food and medical care
and many become refugees. Obtaining work may become difficult, forcing
many women into prostitution in order to survive. Hundreds of thousands
of women are sexually trafficked every year and violence makes it impossible
for hundreds of thousands of girls to attend school.
Pollution is also an important
problem for women. Recent studies have found numerous toxins in breast
milk and one out of six women in the U.S. has enough mercury in their
wombs to cause mental retardation, autism and other diseases. Women
who breathe polluted air are four times more likely to have children
who develop cancer. Other pollutants such as PCBs, dioxin and DDT are
known to impact reproductive health and have been linked to breast cancer.
Chemical and nuclear weapons impact women's reproductive health, causing
low birth weights and gross birth abnormalities.
It is for all of these reasons
that on March 8th, we once again affirm the human rights of women throughout
the world as well as celebrate their lives and accomplishments.
*This essay is adapted from
commentary by the author that was originally published by the Louisville
Eccentric Observer. “We Stand with the Women of the World”
is the theme for the 2007 Louisville, Kentucky/US observance of IWD.