INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY – CHANGING THE THINGS WE CANNOT ACCEPT

BY SUSAN BIGGS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICE, ADARA DEVELOPMENT

I think I was 15 the first time I felt that now all too familiar indignant rage swell up in me. I was walking at Circular Quay with my parents on New Year’s Eve having just witnessed spectacular fireworks, when a man walked past me and grabbed me on the breast. Before I knew it, my hand was raised and I gave him a swift slap across the face.

Forty years on, and while I know that violence is not the answer (no matter how satisfying it might feel at the time!), I still feel that same rage when I think about the state of women’s rights across the world. While there have been improvements in the fight for gender equity, change is too slow and rights that have been hard won are sadly being threatened from every corner of the globe.

These threats are coming from Russia, where the Russian parliament voted 380-3 in January to decriminalise domestic violence – this in a nation where government statistics show about 12,000 Russian women die annually from domestic violence – that’s one woman every 40 minutes.

They are coming from Bangladesh, where just last week the parliament approved a law that permits girls under age 18 to marry under “special circumstances”. There is no minimum age for these marriages. Already in Bangladesh 52% of girls marry before age 18, and 18% are married before age 15.

They are coming from the so-called ‘leader of the free world’ – a man who once said that when you’re a celebrity, you can do “anything” you want to women — like “grab her by the pussy.”

And they come from huge health inequities throughout the world that see women risking their lives just by doing something as natural as giving birth. Today, a woman in Uganda has a 1 in 44 lifetime chance of maternal death. (For comparison, the risk for a woman in Australia is just 1 in 9,000.)

Women’s rights and women’s safety are under attack in many different places and ways. That is why the Women’s March in January this year swelled to be the largest single-day demonstration in U.S. history. And why more than five million people made their voices heard in marches from one end of the globe to the other.

Women are fighting back.

Every day, I am grateful to be able to channel my frustration about these issues into my work with Adara. I feel incredibly proud to work for an organisation committed first and foremost to the care, support, protection and empowerment of women who don’t have a means to use their voices.

Women are at the heart of all of Adara’s work, and for the past year or so, we have been having conversations about whether we are doing enough – what else can we do to reach more women and more children.

After much deliberation and analysis of our strengths, we are planning to scale the work we have been doing over the past 19 years in maternal, newborn and child health. We are ready to share what we have learnt and to work with more Ugandan health facilities to contribute to saving newborns and mothers’ lives. We will maintain and build upon the deep expertise in newborn care in low resource settings that we have developed, and introduce new technologies and services, and bring training and knowledge to more people in need through Uganda and elsewhere in Africa.

Please follow this work as it develops, and if you’re able, consider making a donation to Adara because together we can make a difference to support and help women in need across the globe.

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