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IWD 2010: Think, Speak Out, Celebrate!

March 8, 2010

This post is a part of the Blog for IWD BLOG

Today is International Women’s Day (the 100th, I might add!), and the theme this year is “Equal rights, equal opportunity: Progress for all.”

To me, the thought of, “equal rights for all” means breathing a HUGE sigh of relief.  To me, “equal rights for all” is a vision we must keep in focus and continue moving toward, step by step.  Many times it doesn’t feel attainable, and other times it seems within reach.

But Secretary Clinton’s words, which she spoke at the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) continue to ring in my ears as the days go by:

I just want to urge that we do not grow weary…please, stay with us and let’s try to create institutional and structural change that does not get wiped away when the political winds blow.

Let’s try to create markets for these goods and ways of funding them and educational and instructional programs along with our commitment to serve that will give women everywhere a chance to take their own lives and their own futures into their own hands.

This International Women’s Day feels different than the last…and the last before that, and the last before that. It’s been a big year, and there is a new sense of urgency and hope in the air when it comes to global women’s issues. 

We have five years left to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs) and MDG 3 and 5, to achieve gender equity and reduce maternal mortality, respectively, are the goals toward which some of the least amount of progress has been made.  So, this is do or die, people.  A sprint to the finish.

New efforts to share and tell stories of incredible women worldwide have helped energize people: Not Yet Rain, Nicholas Kristof’s book Half the Sky, Marisa Tomei’s film Woineshet, and Christy Turlington’s film No Woman, No Cry, set to be released this Spring.

And while there have been seemingly countless setbacks, there have been at least a few very important victories for reproductive rights: just this month, Spain fully liberalized their abortion law and last May, Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered improved access to abortion countrywide.

Among the world’s leaders, there have been important exclamations of support for women’s rights and health.  Again at her ICPD speech, Secretary Clinton stated that,

Investing in the health of women, adolescents, and girls is not only the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do.

An excellent report released by UNFPA and Guttmacher in December breaks down the tremendous payback – in productivity, security, prosperity, market growth, and medical cost savings – of investing in women.  For instance, for every $1 a government invests in family planning, it recoups $1.40 in savings.

President Obama released a fattened global health budget, including more funding for maternal health and more concerted efforts to address health writ large.  Nita Lowey led the US Senate Foreign Operations Subcommittee  in approving the largest global family planning budget in history: $648 million.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, although definitely not my favorite, did announce that maternal health would be a key G8 issue this year in Ottawa.

And there are SO many more uplifting stories and examples from around the world, so we truly cannot grow weary.  We are at the precipice of a new decade and we have fought too hard, and come too far.

And this June, in Washington, DC, women (and men) leaders, activists, policymakers, and providers will gather at the Women Deliver conference to re-energize, galvanize, and strategize…

Those of us who fight, fight, fight every day of our lives – for equality, for rights, for access, for voice… March 8th is the day to take a deep breath and really celebrate what we and our sisters have achieved, while not losing sight of the fight we must continue.

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