Women Make it Happen

Posted by On March 6, 2015
Photo for International Women's Day 1 By Ella Strain March 8, International Women’s Day, celebrates every woman’s value to society and her ability to “Make it Happen.”  Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has stated, “Companies with more women leaders perform better.  Peace agreements that include women are more durable.  Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key social issues [….] [T]he evidence is clear:  equality for women means progress for all.”  Societies need women in order to thrive. That’s why it’s important that women’s health, especially access to cancer prevention, screening, and treatment services, be a priority, not just for women themselves, but for the societies in which they live.  Women today, especially in Africa, are key players in the political, economic, and social well-being of their countries, and are crucial to creating societies that will succeed tomorrow. Women play a key role in politics and peace. African countries have made significant progress in terms of women’s representation in various political arenas. Many African women now serve in top government positions.  Throughout Africa, there have been two women presidents:  Her Excellency  Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, current President of the Republic of Liberia, and Her Excellency, Joyce Banda, former President of the Republic of Malawi; nine female Prime Ministers; and twelve women Vice Presidents. Legislative bodies in Africa are an example for the world because of their increasing female representation.  Women hold 20 percent of the seats in both the single and lower houses of sub-Saharan African national Parliaments, and make up the same percentage of Speakers of the House.  Furthermore, a number of these women hold key Ministerial positions in defense, finance and foreign affairs – a notable break from the typically “softer” positions occupied by women in Cabinet. This resurgence of leadership by women on the African continent is also reflected in the important roles women play in regional bodies.  Women hold half of the seats in the Pan-African Parliament, which elected a woman— Ambassador Gertrude Mongela, currently a Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Ambassador— as its first President. Greater participation by women in the workforce results in faster and more sustainable economic growth. When compared to their peers in all other regions, African women rank highest in economic-activity rate and second-highest in female participation in the labor force. In Africa, women’s labor contributes the most to agricultural production, accounting for 70 percent of agricultural labor, and 90 percent of food production.  However, since men have the power over vital resources – such as land, labor, fertilizer and formal finance – in many cases women have difficulty in securing economic independence in the agricultural sector.  Yet studies show farm yields could potentially increase by 20 to 30 percent if women’s access to productive resources were equal to that of men. Women are the guardians of their children’s welfare. An African family’s livelihood depends on women.  Women in Africa are the household managers to a greater extent than in developing countries on other continents.  Studies show that when women invest their income, they prioritize the welfare of their children, by focusing on health, nutrition and education, more so than men do. In Africa, women are involved in every aspect of food and nutrition.  They hold the responsibility to grow, sell, buy and prepare food for their families.  Women in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend 16 million hours each day in collecting drinking water for their households, which is triple the time spent by men. Women physically take care of their homes, feel a sense of responsibility to provide for their children’s material needs, while simultaneously serving as the main caregivers for all the members of their households.  They shape their children’s attitudes, values, and views about how they, in the future, can also positively contribute to society. A woman’s influence has an inter-generational impact on all components of society. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon understands the value of every woman’s life:  every woman counts.  The loss of one woman results in considerable losses to all parts of society — her family, her community, her society, and her nation.  This is why we help our partners implement programs in sub-Saharan Africa to combat cervical and breast cancer—the two leading causes of cancer deaths in women.  Through increased access to information, prevention and treatment options, we save lives, and give each woman the opportunity to achieve her potential and contribute to the overall development of her country. Today, we salute the women of the world, especially African women, because they truly make it happen. Ella Strain is the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Spring 2015 Intern.