International Women’s Day (IWD) began on 8 March during International Women’s Year 1975. Two years later, in December 1977, the General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.
The growing international women’s movement has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.
Globally, an estimated 287,000 women die each year from pregnancy and delivery-related complications and more than half of these occur in Africa. An African woman has a one-in-39 lifetime risk of dying from pregnancy and delivery-related complications.
The high maternal death rate is affected by the high number of child marriages on the continent, with most girls being pressured to begin child bearing soon after marriage, long before they are physically or emotionally ready to be a parent. The younger the woman, the greater the risk: young women aged 15-20 years are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their twenties.
The high death rate is unacceptable as most of the deaths can be avoided. This is why members of the African Women Leaders Network for Reproductive Health and Family Planning (AWLN) work tirelessly to empower women in various spaces.
AWLN advocates for all women to have access to family planning, antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth. The Network’s members highlight the importance of reproductive health information, adequate services, and cultural and support in the lives of women.
Today we celebrate the extraordinary efforts of each of our members; who are inspiring change for girls and women across the continent.