WASHINGTON -- February 22 -- In response to the devastating Asian tsunami, last month American's demonstrated their tremendous generosity of spirit for those in need. Tragically, this year reminds us that even without a devastating natural disaster, millions of women around the world are without food, shelter, health and human rights every day of every year.
On the 10th anniversary of the United Nations World Conference on Women - the internationally agreed roadmap for advancing opportunity, equality and health for the world's women - and to help commemorate International Women's Day on March 8, 2005, 34 Million Friends of UNFPA, a grassroots movement in solidarity with the world's women, is urging Americans to demonstrate their compassion and commitment to women's health and opportunity.
We are challenging 10,000 Americans to contribute at least $1 in support of the world's women by March 8.
"One dollar, says Lois Abraham, is a very low barrier to entry to become committed and to take a stand."
The need is great.
While much progress has been made in advancing women's health and rights over the past 10 years, millions of women continue to face almost unimaginable challenges just to survive each day. The HIV/AIDS pandemic takes an increasing toll on women. One in three of the world's women suffer violence each year. Nearly 350 million couples still need, but do not have access to reproductive health and family planning services. Women remain vulnerable to cultural traditions that violate their basic human rights and are harmful to their lives, including child marriage and lack of property rights. In short, women's lives are at stake the world over.
Countries around the world have banded together to try and improve the lives of women, through the action plan agreed at the FWCW 10 years ago, and through international organizations advocating on behalf of women. Helping to pioneer these efforts is UNFPA, United Nations Population Fund.
UNFPA is the largest multilateral reproductive health and family planning organization in the world, working in more than 140 countries at their invitation to help women have healthy pregnancies, survive childbirth and plan their families. UNFPA's efforts are integral to HIV prevention; they are a leader in working to end female genital mutilation, violence against women and obstetric fistula; and UNFPA strives for equal rights to food, education, opportunity and health care.
There are 166 countries that provide financial support to UNFPA to continue it's invaluable work - but the United States is not one of them. Since 2002, the Bush Administration has blocked the money that Congress has appropriated each year for UNFPA. But we know Americans support this life-saving work. And while our government is not doing what it should, WE CAN.
"We have an idealist goal - but I know Americans are up to the challenge," said Jane Roberts, cofounder of 34 Million Friends. "UNFPA has a vision, and so do we."
In the two weeks before International Women's Day (March 8), we urge you to ADD YOUR VOICE and YOUR DOLLAR.
Help us find at least 10,000 American women who will raise at least $10,000 to provide reproductive health services - safe motherhood, contraceptives and HIV prevention - to our sisters in the world's poorest countries.
Go to www.34millionfriends.org and make a contribution or send to 34 Million Friends of UNFPA, PO Box 5343, Denver CO 80217-5343. Help us spread the word with those who would be willing to add their voice and help us Meet The Challenge.
On March 8, 2005, the world will celebrate International Women's Day. The occasion is marked by women's groups around the world, is commemorated at the United Nations and is designated as a national holiday in many countries.
The idea of an International Women's Day began at the turn of the century and is a reminder of the decades of struggle by women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. Today, these same ideals hold true and are even further expanded upon in the areas of health and rights. International Women's day in the 21st century is an opportunity for women of all ethnicities, cultures and religions from all over the world, to celebrate their day and to look forward to their future.
For more information about 34 Million Friends of UNFPA and its partners, visit www.34millionfriends.org.