The Words of the Marsh Family

Address on International Women's Day

Belinda Atim
March 9, 2011
Global Health Advocacy Officer, TB Alert (UK)
London, United Kingdom

Address to a joint Women's Federation for World Peace and Universal Peace Federation commemoration Centennial International Women's Day

We women want equal rights; we also want the vote; we want improved working conditions for women. This was the historic moment in world history, on March 8, 1911, when the International Women's Day was born.

I am proud to stand here shoulder to shoulder with other women around the world demanding equal rights, a right to vote and improved working conditions.

I doubt if the founding members would have imagined that one day 100 years ahead a little lady from Africa would also be standing here tonight for the same cause, in the same fight! But here I am. I feel really good.

As we gather here today, I would like to remember and honor all those founding members, and those who have kept the fire burning up to today; let us for a moment dedicate ourselves to the International Women's Day and pledge to continue to continue in their footsteps.

I want to thank the mothers, sisters, daughters who have remained the pillars of our strength, guardians of our safety and harbor our emotional and continued care, from the day we are born and to the last moments in life.

We invite our fathers, brothers, and all the good men around us to support us in the cause.

Our peers have achieved a great deal in fighting for equality which granted women the rights to participate in public spheres including the right to equality and right to choosing their leaders; they also fought hard to gain an opportunity for women to demand equal representation and to ensure that their interests are fully represented in government.

One hundred years on, however, I am sad to say, many countries, particularly developing countries, have yet to grant and develop principles of true democracy and equality. As I stand here today, I can confirm that many women and young adults are being denied voting opportunities in the elections across many countries. These institutional malpractices create a state where women and young adolescents are left with no choices in elections of their leaders but are forced to face governments whose soldiers and police are the very perpetrators of violence on women and girls.

Women whose positions have been compromised in society are likely to be marginalized, and this may affect their offspring and their long-term standing in society.

Until all stakeholders including the international communities and multilateral agencies place women and girls in the heart of development principles, women and girls will still face the following situations:

1) Women will be unable to prevent unintended pregnancies or meet the desired outcome of ensuring that pregnancy and childbirth are safe.

2) They will be denied the right to vote, the right to education, the right to economic and employment in some cases.

3) In times of fragility, women will continue to bear the brunt of war as they lose their children to conflicts, lose their husbands and brothers, and are used as objects of revenge.

4) Women will continue to lose their children to poor health, malnutrition, and treatable diseases such as malaria, TB, polio, typhoid, measles, etc.

5) Women's reproductive health needs, rights, and choices will remain theoretical as women continue to have children because of unplanned pregnancies

Therefore, it will be desirable if women of tomorrow were facilitated to:

1) Make meaningful investment in women.

2) Be awarded the physical and emotional protection and security at different levels starting from a household especially in times of fragility.

3) Benefit from reproductive health education, including its economic and social rewards in determining the productivity of human development.

4) Have opportunities as young women to be empowered to become leaders of tomorrow who can capably invest in education and running of their households in order to produce productive offspring and train and equip their children to become responsible and law-abiding citizens,

5) Be equipped with the skills to bring up their children on the principles of democracy, cohesion, and security.

6) Have a place in peace efforts and meaningful development initiatives. 

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