Monday, March 8, 2010

International Women's Day

Happy International Women's Day everybody!

I remember being a little girl and thinking how I'd hate to be a boy because everything was so limiting. Girls could wear dresses and trousers, while boys were trapped in trousers forever. Girls could cry but also fight. I was lucky because I was born when it was no longer acceptable to stop a girl from being anything she wanted to be. In the chaotic world of my childhood, growing up and getting married just didn't seem like a sensible plan for a life. Far too fragile and prone to wild emotions, so I was never the little girl dreaming of a white wedding and an even whiter picket fence. I wanted something a bit sturdier and in a more sensible colour.

I know my freedom of choice was won from the wars fought by the women who went before me, and I am forever thankful for that.

In Botswana, women are in a fairly good position as long as they have an income. Poor women here, like poor women everywhere, are vulnerable. They get in relationships with men and become trapped because of economics. Once trapped they are vulnerable to violence and other forms of domestic abuse. They are also unable to negotiate things such as condom use making them more likely to contract HIV/AIDS.

In Botswana, abortion is illegal. Women are forced to go to unhygienic and untrained abortionists and, if they are found out, they are taken to prison. The prisons are full of women who had no choice. Again this burden falls on poor women. Women with money can go over the border to South Africa where abortion is legal and can be done in a clinic or hospital.

It is shocking how the issue is rarely discussed in the country. The missionaries were highly successful in Botswana and Christianity is rampant and nearly mandatorily assumed. As a long time member of Emang Basadi (a women's' rights NGO), I've been in discussions with some of the leading women's rights activists in this country and when abortion is brought up even they are vehemently against it. This saddens me.

Today as we think about the progress women have made, we should know too that the work continues. Until all women have unlimited choices, free of constraint of any kind, the struggle must continue.

13 comments:

Sarah Alaoui said...

wonderful post.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

I'm from India where abortion has been legal for so long, nobody even thinks about it any more.
Which is why I just can't understand the people who are against abortions - isn't it better that a child not be brought into the world, than be brought into a world unloved and uncared?

But then in India, we have the other problem - foetues being aborted because they are the wrong gender.

We have as long a way to go as anyone else, but hopefully women all over the world will get there someday.

Feminist Review said...

A current event to add to the list of things to celebrate today: An Oscar Win for International Women’s Day! Pretty nice timing, no?

bonita said...

Lauri: I agree with your post. I feel the only way we can gain respect for women's reproductive rights is to change the gender mix of our governments..

To that end, I step onto my soap box and invite you to visit [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIvmE4_KMNw] a video produced by the GirlEffect.org. According to the GirlEffect stix:
• When girls and women earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30-40 percent for men.
• Pregnancy is the leading cause of death among girls 15-19 worldwide.
If we save the girls of today, we will have women leaders tomorrow.

[a side note] Nice to see Stories for Haiti.
I already have copies of Recipes for Haiti. Good to see the blogosphere coming together to help Haiti.]

Elspeth Antonelli said...

I had a, shall we say, colourful discussion about the dichotomy between people saying they are 'pro-choice' but their judgmental attitude toward any woman who makes the 'wrong' choice.

daoine said...

Here in Australia we're going backwards. The government is about to pass a bill that will effectively allow a doctor to veto a pregnant woman's choice of care provider. (In the interests of foetal safety, of course). We suspect this is a backdoor approach to recriminalising abortion. In Queensland a teenager was arrested for taking RU486 - but she didn't even know if she was pregnant or not; she took the drug "in case".

But perhaps we're still ahead of the US where a pregnant woman was arrested for falling down.

Border Jumpers said...

Just as an FYI, I am writing daily from Africa about food and agriculture issues for the Worldwatch Institute's Nourishing the Planet blog. I've been focusing on highlighting women and their innovations to help alleviate hunger and poverty. Here is the link to the site www.nourishingtheplanet.org, feel free to check it out. I would love for you to consider cross-posting any posts or to include a link to your site. My personal diary about the trip is called BorderJumpers at www.borderjumpers.org. I'm headed to Ghana now, we've done research and written about Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Madagascar, and Mauritius. Thanks again for your coverage of International Woman's Day, Danielle Nierenberg

Anonymous said...

@daoine: going backwards here in US, too. Right to Lifers are holding the health care bill hostage. Fed law says no fed $ for abortion. The health care bill would help poor pay for insurance (or mandate insurance, another option). This, they feel, is the same as fed $ for abortion. We're still have pharmacists refusing to dispense RU486 if they are anti-abortion.

Lauri said...

I find the comments upsetting today. It seems as if even if women finally get to have control over their bodies, it is not a permanent situation. People seem to be finding all sorts of ways to keep them from the services they need.

The amazing thing to me is these very same people who force women to have babies they do not want and cannot care for turn their backs once the child is born. Now the woman is on her own. Where is their religion then?

Rayna- I find the situation in India scary. I'd heard such things happen in China too.

Daoine- is it true a pregnant woman was arrested for falling down? My god!What next if you eat a packet of chips they put you in jail? Shocking!

Border Jumpers- I will check out your site. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonita-Will check out the video- thanks.

Sarah- Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Elspeth- I know exactly what you are talking about; I have long stopped arguing with "right to lifers" who only care about life before the life's birthday.

Anonymous- It's scary waht is going in in the USA.

Ερμής said...

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http://diaforetikimatia.blogspot.com/

This is my site. Please visit me, friends of Botswana!

daoine said...

Here's the story.

Lauri said...

Daoine- That is sick on so many levels.

Selma said...

This is depressing. Daoine is right about the situation in Australia. There is a real growth in the Christian right here which is alarming. It's not as if we don't already have enough bloomin' rednecks.

I have a friend who is a bit of a high flying corporate lawyer (or used to be). She said something really interesting the other day. She felt that feminist principles didn't apply to pregnant women; that as soon as a woman becomes pregnant she becomes vulnerable and the patriarchal vultures waiting in the wings descend and take away her rights. When she returned from maternity leave her position with the law firm had been 'restructured.' She is now in a lesser paid position with decreased responsibility. The restructuring of her position happened the day she went on maternity leave 6 months ago. Sadly, hers is not an isolated case.

We still have a long way to go.