Gender equality is a human right. Women are entitled to live in dignity and in freedom from want and fear, without discrimination. Gender equality is also vital to sustainable development, peace and security.
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In commemoration of International Women's Day, UNFPA is celebrating four inspiring women’s rights activists. These women are leaders in their countries and communities. All have overcome enormous barriers to raise their voices on behalf of the most vulnerable and marginalized. These four women stood up to demand equality. You should, too.
DAMASCUS, Syria - Fatima and Rasha welcomed new children into the world on the same day - an experience that would be completely unremarkable if not for their circumstances. Both women are living in uncertainty after fleeing the conflict in northern Syria, part of a wave of displacements that continues to grow.
LAMU, Keyna - Aisha Tiro Bahero, 30, knows what it means to stare death in the face. Three years ago, while pregnant with her fifth child, she began to haemorrhage dangerously. "I couldn't stop the bleeding. No one could," she said.
KACHIN STATE, Myanmar - Since the armed conflict in northern Myanmar's Kachin State intensified in December, nearly 7,000 people have fled the area, often amid shelling and airstrikes. Among the people on the run are 260 pregnant women. Many of them are sleeping on the roadside, unable to find shelter.
MORODIJEEX - It was early morning when a young sheikh, Abdi Iidan, and his wife joined the long queue leading to a tent in Morodijeex, Somaliland. Mr. Iidan stood out from the crowd; women dominated the queue. They were seeking reproductive health services, offered through a UNFPA-supported campaign targeting marginalized populations.
PREAH VIHEAR, Cambodia - "I still remember when my neighbour experienced complications during delivery. She passed away on the way to the referral hospital. It was terrifying," 16-year-old Kem Lean told UNFPA in the northern Cambodian province of Preah Vihear. "Now that I'm pregnant myself, I keep thinking that I don't want that to happen to me."
Shukria was married off at just 9 years old. The wedding was arranged to settle a debt her family owed to a 50-year-old man. “He told my father he would forget the debt and give even more money if he could take me as his bride. So that is how I got married,” Shukria recounted.
Kachin, Myanmar - Five years ago, armed conflict engulfed Nam San Yam Village in northern Myanmar, forcing Aung Htwe to flee for his life. Since then, he has lived in the Maina AG displacement camp, unable to return home. Yet even in this safe haven, he sees - and hears - violence all the time.
AXUM, Ethiopia - Thirty pregnant women at the Almeda Textile Factory Clinic gathered around a small solar-powered projector, raptly watching an animation on pregnancy health. Gebreamlak Giday walked them through the video lesson, explaining the importance of receiving antenatal care, how to recognize danger signs and why they should prepare for possible complications.