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Celebrating International Women’s Day—Recognizing the Role of Women Every Day

Wabiwa's life was transformed by fistula surgery. Credit: Laurence William, The Fistula Foundation

Every March 8th, International Women’s Day, we acknowledge the struggles and successes that women encounter worldwide. This year’s theme focuses on violence against women, which takes many forms—physical, sexual, psychological and economic—all constituting violations of fundamental rights and human dignity.

As in other regions of the developing world, African customs and traditions, poverty, and a lack of access to education contribute to inequalities that suppress half of the population—its women.  When half the population is stifled, everyone loses.   

Author-activists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn put it well when they titled their book about the plight of women in the developing world Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Their writings and film show that with a little initial support, women can transform their lives and the lives of their families, communities, and countries. Now, a social media interactive game allows players to step into the shoes of women to get inside the challenges and choices they face. Through this role-playing, Kristof and WuDunn are taking their message to new audiences and showing them how specialized medical treatment, education, or small loans can make women’s lives better and how investments in the right solutions and organizations can help achieve these successes. 

Women in West Africa singing about human rights. Credit: Tostan

Aid for Africa members The Fistula Foundation and Tostan have been recognized in Half the Sky for helping to change the status quo. By providing women with life-changing surgery to repair debilitating childbirth injuries, The Fistula Foundation has transformed the lives of women who have been shunned by society and abandoned by their families. Tostan, which means “breakthrough” in the West African  Wolof language, has created a development model that challenges the status quo and fosters social transformation within communities. Tostan has empowered, not just women, but entire villages, encouraging education for girls, financial independence for women, and protection of the rights of women and girls.

The world officially recognizes International Women’s Day only once a year, but Aid for Africa members celebrate women and girls every day.