Join Me On The Bridge: International Women’s Day

Zainab Salbi

This International Women's Day remember the women in Rwanda and the DR of Congo  - survivors of war and the sexual violence that so often accompanies war.

You’ve probably heard of the 1994 genocide that took 800,000 lives and witnessed up to 500,000 rapes in only 100 days. You may be less familiar with neighboring DR Congo, where the same roots of conflict have fostered a war more deadly than any since WWII, where hundreds of thousands of women are estimated to have been raped and where the violence wages on today. Yet despite this brutal history of conflict, poverty and loss, it is on the border of these two countries — Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo — where less than one month from now thousands of survivors of war, genocide, torture and rape, will gather — not in mourning, but in unity, determination and celebration.

100 years after the declaration of an international day for women on March 8th, women worldwide have yet to reach full equality in all aspects of life. In times of war, they are still the targets of massive rape, torture, displacement and pillaging. The difference this time is that women are speaking out and stand united as they break their silence, demand an immediate end to war and the building of sustainable peace that can allow them to plant, harvest, go to work, send their children to schools, and dance, live and eat without any fear.

It is a day on which they will hang their hopes for peace and prosperity even as, in a vibrant display of unity, they tie together banners of fabric on which they’ve painted their visions for this peaceful future. Initially, you may only see them for their poverty, but when you get to know them, as I and my colleagues have in the process of working with women survivors of wars in the past 17 years, you will know that they are strong women, resilient woman, women who refused to give up, women who refused to be silent, women who kept life going for their families in spite of their circumstances. In respect and honor of their voices and the voices of every woman who has faced injustice and decided to break her silence, in honor of every woman who decided to stand up with her sisters and echo their voices in one united voice, we join with these women to let the world hear our roar and listen for once to what women have to say. And so, on this March 8th, 2010 the centennial anniversary of International Women’s Day, I am proud to announce that thousands of women in New York, Sarajevo, London and many other cities are standing together to honor the resilience of millions of women survivors of war around the world as part of Women for Women International’s global campaign, Join Me on the Bridge. Because the women of Rwanda and Congo are not alone.

In the 21st century, you would think the data about women’s circumstances worldwide have improved. But alas, not by much. Women are still 70% of the world’s poor, they are still 75% of the civilians killed in war (along with their children), and still receive only 10% of global income for 66% of the world’s work (UN). Yet, as our Congolese, Rwandese, American, European, Mexican, French, Bosnian, sisters show us, they are survivors whose strength and ability to persevere is immense.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

So Join Me, join us, join thousands of women on bridges across divided communities worldwide. Join Honorata who survived a year and a half as a sexual slave in Congo to build three businesses and who now dedicates her life to promoting women’s independence in her home country. Join Violette, a Rwandese woman who lost everything in the genocide and was only able to keep her children alive by smearing blood on their faces and asking them to pretend they were dead. 16 years later, Violette owns her land, sends her kids to school and runs her business out of the home she was able to rebuild. Join Senada who spoke up in Bosnia about the rape she endured. Join Mersada in Kosovo who spoke up about the domestic violence she faced. Join Abby, and Liz, and Beatrice, and Hamide, and Suada and so many women from so many parts of the world as we all meet, tie our fabrics together, dare to imagine peace together, and dare to be loud and clear, showing our determination for the end of war and the establishment of a lasting peace in our lives and the lives of our children.
If these women can stand up to make a difference, so can the rest of us. We can demand attention to this issue, we can demand governments no longer ignore the suffering of women nor their voices and their crucial role in repairing their countries after war. We can unite to help other wives, mothers and sisters all over the globe whose daily existence is a challenge. After all, if we don’t speak up, who will?

***

Ours is an unprecedented call to action: let all who support peace and development for women, their families and communities Join Us on the Bridge. You can join a global movement of women uniting for peace and prosperity. All around the U.S. and all around the world women are organizing events to honor and echo the voices of women survivors of war on International Women’s Day. You can attend a bridge event, organize one, or sign the pledge that you believe women are the key to global peace and development.

News Abortion

Pennsylvania’s TRAP Law Could Be the Next to Go Down

Teddy Wilson

The Democrats' bill would repeal language from a measure that targets abortion clinics, forcing them to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities.

A Pennsylvania lawmaker on Wednesday introduced a bill that would repeal a state law requiring abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical facilities (ASF). The bill comes in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a similar provision in Texas’ anti-choice omnibus law known as HB 2.

A similar so-called targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) law was passed in Pennsylvania in 2011 with bipartisan majorities in both the house and state senate, and was signed into law by former Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

SB 1350, sponsored by Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) would repeal language from Act 122 that requires abortion clinics to meet ASF regulations. The text of the bill has not yet been posted on the state’s legislative website.

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Philadelphia), Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), and Judy Schwank (D-Berks).

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Leach said in a statement that there has been a “nationwide attack on patients and their doctors,” but that the Supreme Court’s ruling upholds the constitutionally protected right to terminate a pregnancy.

“Abortion is a legal, Constitutionally-protected right that should be available to all women,” Leach said. “Every member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly swore an oath to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States, so we must act swiftly to repeal this unconstitutional requirement.”

TRAP laws, which single out abortion clinics and providers and subject them to regulations that are more stringent than those applied to medical clinics, have been passed in several states in recent years.

However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt that struck down two of the provisions in HB 2 has already had ramifications on similar laws passed in other states with GOP-held legislatures.

The Supreme Court blocked similar anti-choice laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi, and Alabama’s attorney general announced he would drop an appeal to a legal challenge of a similar law.

News Abortion

Reproductive Justice Groups Hit Back at RNC’s Anti-Choice Platform

Michelle D. Anderson

Reproductive rights and justice groups are greeting the Republican National Convention with billboards and media campaigns that challenge anti-choice policies.

Reproductive advocacy groups have moved to counter negative images that will be displayed this week during the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland, while educating the public about anti-choice legislation that has eroded abortion care access nationwide.

Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee for president, along with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R), Trump’s choice for vice president, have supported a slew of anti-choice policies.

The National Institute for Reproductive Health is among the many groups bringing attention to the Republican Party’s anti-abortion platform. The New York City-based nonprofit organization this month erected six billboards near RNC headquarters and around downtown Cleveland hotels with the message, “If abortion is made illegal, how much time will a person serve?”

The institute’s campaign comes as Created Equal, an anti-abortion organization based in Columbus, Ohio, released its plans to use aerial advertising. The group’s plan was first reported by The Stream, a conservative Christian website.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The site reported that the anti-choice banners would span 50 feet by 100 feet and seek to “pressure congressional Republicans into defunding Planned Parenthood.” Those plans were scrapped after the Federal Aviation Administration created a no-fly zone around both parties’ conventions.

Created Equal, which was banned from using similar messages on a large public monitor near the popular Alamo historic site in San Antonio, Texas, in 2014, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, said in an interview with Rewire that Created Equal’s stance and tactics on abortion show how “dramatically out of touch” its leaders compared to where most of the public stands on reproductive rights. Last year, a Gallup poll suggested half of Americans supported a person’s right to have an abortion, while 44 percent considered themselves “pro-life.”

About 56 percent of U.S. adults believe abortion care should be legal all or most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center’s FactTank.

“It’s important to raise awareness about what the RNC platform has historically endorsed and what they have continued to endorse,” Miller told Rewire.

Miller noted that more than a dozen women, like Purvi Patel of Indiana, have been arrested or convicted of alleged self-induced abortion since 2004. The billboards, she said, help convey what might happen if the Republican Party platform becomes law across the country.

Miller said the National Institute for Reproductive Health’s campaign had been in the works for several months before Created Equal announced its now-cancelled aerial advertising plans. Although the group was not aware of Created Equal’s plans, staff anticipated that intimidating messages seeking to shame and stigmatize people would be used during the GOP convention, Miller said.

The institute, in a statement about its billboard campaign, noted that many are unaware of “both the number of anti-choice laws that have passed and their real-life consequences.” The group unveiled an in-depth analysis looking at how the RNC platform “has consistently sought to make abortion both illegal and inaccessible” over the last 30 years.

NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio last week began an online newspaper campaign that placed messages in the Cleveland Plain Dealer via Cleveland.com, the Columbus Dispatch, and the Dayton Daily News, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio spokesman Gabriel Mann told Rewire.

The ads address actions carried out by Created Equal by asking, “When Did The Right To Life Become The Right To Terrorize Ohio Abortion Providers?”

“We’re looking to expose how bad [Created Equal has] been in these specific media markets in Ohio. Created Equal has targeted doctors outside their homes,” Mann said. “It’s been a very aggressive campaign.”

The NARAL ads direct readers to OhioAbortionFacts.org, an educational website created by NARAL; Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio; the human rights and reproductive justice group, New Voices Cleveland; and Preterm, the only abortion provider located within Cleveland city limits.

The website provides visitors with a chronological look at anti-abortion restrictions that have been passed in Ohio since the landmark decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

In 2015, for example, Ohio’s Republican-held legislature passed a law requiring all abortion facilities to have a transfer agreement with a non-public hospital within 30 miles of their location. 

Like NARAL and the National Institute for Reproductive Health, Preterm has erected a communications campaign against the RNC platform. In Cleveland, that includes a billboard bearing the message, “End The Silence. End the Shame,” along a major highway near the airport, Miller said.

New Voices has focused its advocacy on combatting anti-choice policies and violence against Black women, especially on social media sites like Twitter.

After the police killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black boy, New Voices collaborated with the Repeal Hyde Art Project to erect billboard signage showing that reproductive justice includes the right to raise children who are protected from police brutality.

Abortion is not the only issue that has become the subject of billboard advertising at the GOP convention.

Kansas-based environmental and LGBTQ rights group Planting Peace erected a billboard depicting Donald Trump kissing his former challenger Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) just minutes from the RNC site, according to the Plain Dealer.

The billboard, which features the message, “Love Trumps Hate. End Homophobia,” calls for an “immediate change in the Republican Party platform with regard to our LGBT family and LGBT rights,” according to news reports.

CORRECTION: A version of this article incorrectly stated the percentage of Americans in favor of abortion rights.