Women’s Day was launched in March of 1910 in solidarity with the women garment factory workers who had been striking for 11 weeks in New York City. At the time, union leadership was dominated by men, but these women, mostly teenagers and immigrants, took it upon themselves to demand better working conditions and higher pay, as well as women’s suffrage. Passion to join the movement was ignited around the world and global feminists immediately proposed making the day an international one.
In recognition that we are all in this together, many feminist organizations in the United States and around the globe focus not just on the empowerment of women in their own communities, but around the world, including the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF).
Through the Campaign for Afghan Women & Girls, FMF sponsors scholarships, supports Afghan women-owned businesses, and facilitates briefings between Afghan activists and American lawmakers. Since 1996, FMF has been committed to building a grassroots constituency around foreign policy that invests in Afghan women and girls, the same work for which FMF was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. Centering the voices and experiences of Afghan women and girls is key to forging lasting peace policy in the country.
At a Congressional Briefing hosted by FMF this past summer, Afghan women’s and human rights activists detailed their recommendations for future U.S. policy in Afghanistan and outlined positive changes that have occurred over the past 20 years. Portrayals of Afghanistan in the American media most often show war, women in burkas, and extreme violence. In reality, however, women and girls now have much more opportunity to attend schools and access healthcare facilities. There are also a growing number of women participating in free media, music programs, advocacy, athletics, the military, and the electorate.
Throughout the last year, FMF has also been fighting to end President Trump’s extended Global Gag Rule, a deadly U.S. policy that forbids international aid programs that receive U.S. global health funding from providing, counseling on, or even referencing the word abortion, even if these actions are done with non-U.S. sourced funds. Marie Stopes estimates it will lead to the deaths of an additional 21,000 women over the next four years. FMF has protested in front of the White House, spread awareness about it in the media, and fought for legislation that would repeal the deadly policy.
“Trump is shamelessly trading the lives of the poorest women of the Global South for political points at home,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of FMF. “We are calling on Congress to stop this blatant disregard for women’s lives and pass the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act, which would permanently revoke the Global Gag Rule.”
Additionally, FMF advocates for increased U.S. global family planning initiatives. As the largest donor to global health funding in the world, the United States should be prioritizing greater birth control access, which is required if we truly want to empower women around the world to achieve their full potential. FMF’s campaign requires not only advocating for funding in Congress, but also putting pressure on the Trump administration to fill key State Department positions that focus on women and girls, like the Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues.
In the next year, FMF will continue all of this important work and more. Consider making a donation so that FMF can continue to say that American feminists stand with women and girls around the world. Happy International Women’s Day!
Media Resources: Teen Vogue 3/8/18; Feminist Newswire 6/21/17, 3/9/17;