Today, March 8, is celebrated around the globe as International Women’s Day . Some decry its commercialization, as corporate sponsors have realized it’s in their best interests to appeal to women who make over 85 percent of consumer purchases around the globe.
But it’s a day whose meaning inspires me to think back to a very special moment on September, 1995.
I was attending the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, where hugely ambitious and thrilling goals were set for improving the lives of women, and by extension their families and the world.
The official conference was in Beijing, but the much larger convocation of activists from nongovernmental organizations—40,000 enthusiastic women and a few good men like my husband—was literally stuck in the mud in Huairu, a suburb an hour’s drive from the city.
Thousands of sleepy people had arrived at dawn on the morning of Sept. 6, to stand packed together under a roof of brightly colored umbrellas, jockeying for the few hundred seats inside the auditorium where then first lady of the United States Hillary Clinton was slated to give a speech.
Thanks to my training in clinic defense, which had taught me how to form a wedge and move expeditiously through even the most aggressive crowd, I was fortunate not only to get inside but to get a seat. The program was running late; Hillary was running even later and the crowd was getting restless.
Just as it seemed a revolt might be brewing, Shirley May Springer Stanton, the cultural coordinator of the conference, sauntered onto the stage and began to sing a capella, ever so softly: “Gonna keep on moving forward. Never turning back, never turning back.”
Then she asked the audience to join her. Pretty soon the house was rocking. By the time the first lady arrived and gave her brilliant “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights” speech, it truly felt like the global movement for women’s rights was unstoppable.
It was, you might say, an ovular moment.
Where are women today? How far have we come?Read More
Just in time to celebrate International Woman’s Day, Catherine Eng contributes this blog post that celebrates a medical solution to family planning that many take for granted and yet remains out of reach 52 years later to millions of women around the world.
Country music legend Loretta Lynn was known for lyrics that bluntly addressed issues in the lives of many women. She believed no topic was off limits, as long as it spoke to other women.
In 1975, Lynn released The Pill, a single considered to be the first song to discuss birth control. The song tells a story of a wife who is upset about her husband getting her pregnant year after year, but is now happy because she can control her own reproductive choices. The song’s frank discussion of birth control was unprecedented at a time when many would have considered contraception a risqué subject matter. Some radio stations refused to play her song on these grounds.
“There’s gonna be some changes made right here on nursery hill…‘cause now I’ve got the pill.”
Be sure to click on the video link below to listen and laugh.
In an interview later in life, Lynn recounted how she had been congratulated after the song’s success by a number of rural physicians, telling her how The Pill had done more to highlight the availability of birth control in isolated, rural areas, than all the literature they’d released.
Fifty-two years after the inception of the pill in America, conservative newscaster Rush Limbaugh felt free to call Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown university student who asked her university to cover hormonal birth-control, a prostitute and a whore. His ignorant comment reminds us that there still exist widespread misconceptions and stigmas surrounding contraception. Let’s take the opportunity on International Women’s day to clear up any misconceptions, to examine the many social benefits of contraception and family planning.Read More
How did you recognize the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day March 8? If you haven’t yet signed the “Million for a Billion” petition to tell Congress you want them to fund international family planning and save the lives of so many women and children around the world, please do so here. This is one meaningful way to honor the women who founded IWD to promote equality for women, including the right to vote and hold public office. Another is to reach out to help another woman. Today’s guest post from Kathy Korman Frey, entrepreneur in residence at George Washington University School of Business and founder of The Hot Mommas Project tells just such a story. Read on, and keep reading for a roundup of some of the best of IWD posts:
A dignified, beautiful, African-American woman stood at the podium during the Wake Forest Women’s Weekend. All eyes were on Esther Silver-Parker, one of the most senior former executives at Wal-Mart and now president of the Silver-Parker Group. Would she talk about women’s advancement to the C-suite? Would she share her secrets to success? That, she did. And one of them was not at all what we expected.
Silver-Parker grew up in rural North Carolina, in a two-bedroom house, with her parents and many siblings. She recounted a screenplay-like story about a group of women she called: The Front Porch Ladies. “The Front Porch Ladies were the women who sat on their front porches as we came home from school,” Silver-Parker said. “They would treat our business like it was their business.”
When Silver-Parker was accepted to college, imagine her surprise when the Front Porch Ladies showed up on her front porch. There they all stood, having brought with them a full set of blue luggage for her to take off to school. “From time to time at college, I would get letters from the Front Porch Ladies,” Silver-Parker told the audience. “They would write words of encouragement, and sometimes include a dollar or two.”Read More
Check out today’s guest post on 9 Ways. It comes to us from The Population Institute. I highlight it because the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is being celebrated at events around the world today. The best way I can think of to celebrate IWD is to petition the U.S. Congress and other world leaders to make good on their commitments to fund international family planning. In No Excuses, I show why reproductive self-determination is essential for women to have any other kind of power. But the Republicans are trying to eliminate or drastically cut family planning funds in the U.S. and globally. The political and social justice consequences of such a short sighted policy are stunning.
Even if you don’t have time to read the whole post, please click here to sign the petition now. You’ll be saving women’s lives.
Watch this video called “Empty Handed” to see just some of the reasons why you’ll want to join me in signing the petition and become one of a million for a billion–telling Congress to fully fund international family planning:Read More
Today’s guest post comes to us from The Population Institute. I highlight it because the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day is being celebrated at events around the world today. The best way I can think of to celebrate IWD is to petition the U.S. Congress and other world leaders to make good on their commitments to fund international family planning. In No Excuses, I show why reproductive self-determination is essential for women to have any other kind of power. But the Republicans are trying to eliminate or drastically cut family planning funds in the U.S. and globally. Even if you don’t have time to read the whole post, please click here to sign the petition now. You’ll be saving women’s lives.
It’s time to hold world leaders accountable for their promises. Seventeen years ago world leaders gathered in Cairo, Egypt, and declared access to reproductive health care to be a universal right, but for many that right has not been realized. An estimated 215 million married women in the developed world want to avoid a pregnancy, but are not using a modern method of birth control. Tens of millions of young men and women are at risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
It’s time to make access to contraceptives and reproductive health care a reality, not just a right. Need another reason? By giving women the power to prevent unwanted and unintended pregnancies we save lives. Every year 365,000 women, many of them too young to bear children, die as a result of pregnancy-related causes.
Regular guest columnist Anne Doyle wrote this post for International Women’s Day, but it applies every day. It reminds me about how important symbols are, and is a great example of what I call “Sister Courage”–be a sister, have courage, and work together like a movement with sister courage. Here’s the link to the original on Anne’s website if you want to connect with her there. I’m so proud of Anne for running for city council (and winning!), as well as admiring her leadership ideas.
After my speech, the same woman came up to me, handed me the pin and told me she wanted me to have it. “Oh no, I couldn’t take your pin. I know it’s very special to you.” She insisted, but told me there was a string attached to her gift. “You must promise me that one day you will give this pin to another woman,” she said. “I am giving it to you with the understanding that you will pass it forward.” “How long can I keep it?” I asked her. She simply said, “You will know when it’s time to pass the pin and its power forward.”Read More
“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” —Sojourner Truth, former slave, abolitionist, Methodist minister, and early U.S. women’s rights leader
International Women’s Day began 99 years ago. With so much progress accomplished since 1911, yet so much more remaining to be done, it seems to me that it’s time for women to change our approach to something closer Sojourner Truth’s.
Her advice to women as she stated it in the above quote to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the influential anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, when they met in 1853, comes from a position of knowing her own power. Despite being been born into slavery and experiencing oppression, poverty, and discrimination far greater than most women reading this blog in 2010, Truth was way ahead of many of us in her perspective about how to advance equal rights.
Without question, in many places around the globe, women remain as oppressed as Sojourner Truth–born Isabella Baumfree in Ulster County, New York, and once sold for $100 and a herd of sheep–was before she “walked off” from her master.Read More
I’m finding Women’s History Month this year greeted with yawns. That could mean women and women’s contributions are becoming everywhere recognized as integral to political and social history. If so, it’s not yet a publicly acknowledged fact.
No surprise there.
History has been defined through male lenses and written by male hands. Almost nobody, male or female, ever thought of Women’s History Anything before the 1970’s. Officially, it’s been in existence since 1978 and started on the left coast (as Women’s History Week) in Sonoma County CA. Now it sounds just nice and ordinary. You can even buy Women’s History Month greeting cards.
So it’s hard for many to fathom that the inception of Women’s History Month marked a revolutionary shift in thinking about whose actions are worth recording. An interesting overview is here, and Louise Bernikow’s “Our Story” articles tell me interesting snippets I don’t find elsewhere; your children probably won’t find them in their textbooks either because few history courses even today have caught up with the stunning progress women have made into leadership and influential roles during the past decade.Read More
I tore open the New York Times this morning, hoping to see an article about International Women’s Day, today, March 8.
Nada. Zilch. Nothing recognizing a day first observed in 1909 and ingrained in the global women’s movement.
The economy dominates the news and for good reason, but why not at least an op ed that tells readers the effect of the global financial meltdown women and the spiraling effect that has on families. But then when it comes to cash circulation worldwide, women do 2/3 of the work but get 10% of the income, according to the International Women’s Day 2009 website. If gold rules, then no wonder that only 21% of news stories globally are about women. Yet women continue to be the primary victims of sex trafficking and other sexual abuse, dislocation from wars they didn’t start, and repressive practices such as genital cutting and even restrictions on physical movement.Read More
“What do you want to be?” we ask our daughters and sons when they are growing up.
Barack Obama poses this question to elementary school children in this delightful video called “I Want to Be” that looks at political leadership of women through American history. Take a look and ask yourself the same question: what do you want to be next?
This video is just in time for International Women’s Day– March 8–and Women’s History Month, celebrated throughout March. “Celebrated” is the right word for where women are today, too: on the cusp of a great leaping point toward true equality and even in some instances, parity.
Watch and see where U.S. women are in national political leadership as compared to other countries. You’ll find interesting vignettes of women shattering barriers, others who didn’t succeed but paved the way for the next woman who tried, and some facts that might surprise you.Read More