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STAND YOUR GROUND: Women defending and demanding justice and freedom

International Women’s Day: Statement from the Coalition of African Lesbians

The Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL), on this International Women’s Day (IWD) commemoration stands in solidarity with all women who remain on the frontlines of the fight for freedom and justice for all. While spaces of resistance continue to shrink, women now more than in recent years find ourselves having to be bolder, more firm, and unwaveringly focused in defending hard-won rights and freedoms. Women the world over continue to show up in numbers, in presence and in voice, to express our indignation at systems of oppression and inequality that persistently set back our efforts at attaining free and fully autonomous lives.

This year’s International Women’s Day finds the earth on Salome Karwah’s grave still damp, and the rage of women and activists across Africa and the world still raw. An African woman celebrated for her relentless work against Ebola died shortly after giving birth as a result of treatable complications which are evidence of a national healthcare system in crisis. That in 2017, according to the World Health Organisation, 99% of all global maternal health and morbidity related deaths occur in ‘developing countries’ is past unacceptable, it is shameful. Maternal mortality and morbidity are but a drop of an issue in a sea of health, safety, security, food and financial crises that statistically and in reality, women bear the bigger brunt of.

Violence remains a consistent autocratic presence in our lives. From state sanctioned warfare that seeks to maintain control of people, spaces and movement, to growingly hostile policy, political and private spaces where women’s rights, presence, contributions and voices are silenced and sidelined. Global militarisation efforts, led by Western powers and reinforced by African leaders continue to invade both physical and ideological spaces and use violence and fear to threaten and intimidate the efforts and work of organisations, activists and individuals.

In the absence of state-provided services and programmes, and women’s lived realities not considered sufficient cause for action, we continue to take on these challenges and create autonomous systems that provide the needed assistance and sustenance which communities continue to live off. Many of these stories do not make it to the front page of mainstream media, but we bear witness to the immeasurable resilience of women all over the world, who continue to triumph against all odds. We do not want to continue to raise generations of women and children who are forced to struggle for their basic needs and rights. Women want to live, thrive and prosper in all possibilities in this world we work so hard to hold together. And we want to live this dream today.

This year, CAL echoes the global theme for IWD, #BeBoldForChange. The Coalition has for years, and continues to expose and respond to the visible and invisible intersecting multiple oppressions and injustices in our work, our movements, our communities and homes.

We add to this call our persistent demand for recognition and respect for the autonomy of women’s bodies, and all bodies – from deeply entrenched socio-cultural ideas and practices, to global-economic manipulation and coercion. We continue to hold firm the idea that this recognition and respect for bodily autonomy and freedom is an important step in the road to realising and living whole, full and independent lives.

CALL TO ACTION

We call on our members, friends and allies to join the hundreds of other organisations and individuals to create presence online on the 8th of March 2017 and #BeBoldForChange. Share an image, or words that embody this call for respect for women’s bodily freedom and autonomy using the #DemandAutonomy along with the #BeBoldForChange hashtags.

We continue to #BeBoldForChange and #DemandAutonomy.

Coalition of African Lesbians

For further information please contact:

Sheena Magenya- CAL Media Specialist, sheena@cal.org.za and +254 708 779 131

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