On May Day

Warm May Day Greetings to all of you and to all our working sisters and brothers around the globe!

On this day one year ago, the Global Fund stood in solidarity with migrant rights marches in New York and San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley. We are proud of the Global Fund for Women's many years of support to migrant women's organizations and we take a moment this May 1st, to reiterate our commitment to the struggles for justice and a living wage that are still being advanced by the vast majority of people on our planet.

It is particularly poignant to me that May Day, like International Women's Day, is a holiday whose origins is in the United States. It commemorates the brave workers at the Haymarket in Chicago who were protesting for fair wages and decent working conditions. Of these, some eight men were condemned to die because they were framed for a bomb that was thrown at police during the protests. Three were hanged in jail, one committed suicide; three more were finally pardoned six years later. On Nov 11, 1887, close to 500,000 people lined the streets of Chicago to commemorate these workers' lives and their tragic deaths.

On June 26, 1893, the governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, issued the pardon message in which he made it clear that he granted the pardon because they were innocent  of the crime for which they had been tried, and that they and the hanged men had been the victims of hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge.

The US government declared May 1st to be "Law Day", and gave the workers instead Labor Day, the first Monday of September - a holiday devoid of any historical significance.

Nevertheless, the events of 1886 and the execution of the Chicago workers, spokesmen of the movement for the eight-hour day, mobilized many generations. Emma Goldman, a young immigrant at the time, later pointed to the Haymarket affair as her political birth.

For a more detailed history, read here.

Enjoy your May Day!  It's also a great pagan festival celebrated across Europe to celebrate the coming of warmer days, fertility, and spring!

Kavita N. Ramdas is the President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women.


Ultra Dedication

The world of the Global Fund for Women is full of dedication.  Grantees from all over the world made up of dedicated women and girls empowering themselves and each other, determined to advance women's rights in the face of any obstacle.  GFW donors, women and men of all ages, dedicated to partnering with our grantees to better understand and support the invaluable work they do.frances_marathon

And, of course, the Global Fund Staff and Board, who dedicate their time and energy day in and day out to seeding and strengthening these groups and the women's movement internationally.

Almost one year ago now, I found myself part of this Global Fund world. On Saturday, April 14th, I was able to show my dedication to its work and women by completing the American River 50-Mile Endurance Run for which (with the generosity and support of my friends, family and coworkers) I raised over $1, 400 for the Global Fund for Women.


I began my "Ultramarathon Madness Fund" in January, wanting to combine my long-term dedication to running with my newfound love of the Global Fund.  I remember thinking to myself, "What if all of these 25-mile training runs, the 4 a.m. wake-up calls, and grueling 50-mile race day meant more than just aching muscles and walking down stairs sideways for 1 week?"  

That thought stayed with me for all 8 hours and 19 minutes of the race, motivating me through the muddy, hilly (they're not kidding when they say the last 3 miles elevates 1,000 feet!), and physically and mentally challenging course leading from Sacramento, California to Auburn.  Nothing-not my expertly devised and executed 4-month training plan, stacks of Runner's World magazines, or fellow runner advice-could have prepared me for 50 miles.  

But I knew it wasn't just about my physical or mental pain.  I knew I had dedicated myself to those who had donated to the GFW in my honor, to my fellow staff who cheered me on both in the office and on the trail, and most importantly to our grantees who are making this world a safer, more equitable, and more beautiful place for all people.  

Now that's dedication!

Frances Prochilo is the Administrative Assistant at the Global Fund for Women.


A Historic Day in Mexico

Today marks a historic day in Mexico and the Latin American region.

The Legislative Assembly has just decriminalized abortion during the first 12 weeks of gestation in Mexico City! The capital city now has one of the most progressive laws on abortion in Latin America, after only Cuba and Guyana.

This watershed bill was approved by 46 of the 66 representatives and includes not only the decriminalization of abortion up to 12 weeks, but also reduced sentences for women undergoing abortion after 12 weeks and the definition of pregnancy beginning at implantation. Mexico City's Health Law was also strengthened to guarantee sexuality education and campaigns on reproductive and sexual rights, the availability of birth control methods, as well as comprehensive and quality abortion services upon request. This inclusive bill on women's reproductive and sexual rights emphasizes the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and will decrease maternal mortality.

Much work remains to be done, including within the Ministry of Health to ensure the full application of this law, since all women requesting abortion during the first 12 weeks of gestation must have access to this service, free of charge. Conservative forces have already pledged to bring an unconstitutionality suit against the bill, and the legal battle will begin soon.

But in the brief respite we have until this new stage begins, the Pro-Choice Alliance, along with many, many other organizations and individuals, and indeed most importantly Mexican women, will savor this momentous occasion and we know you will join us. We are proud to have played a part in this history-making process!

In defense of women's lives and rights!

María Consuelo Mejía, María Eugenia Romero, María Luisa Sánchez Fuentes, Raffaela Schiavon, Sandy García, Gillian Fawcett, Emily Barcklow, Jennifer Paine, Eugenia López, Sandy Poire and the staff of CDD, Equidad, GIRE, Ipas and Population Council  -- an alliance supported by the Global Fund for Women.


Need a Safe Abortion? Go to Mexico City

Tomorrow Mexico City's opposition legislators of the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party and the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, and smaller parties such as Alternativa, PT and Convergencia, will vote to fully legalize abortion in the first 12 weeks of a woman's pregnancy.

Read Kavita Ramdas and Maria Luisa Sanchez's op-ed on  Alternet.

Un artículo de opinión sobre la reforma legislativa a favor del aborto en la Ciudad de México fue publicado en El Diario de Nueva York.


Women in the Gulf

From March 3-15, Middle East and North Africa Program Team Program Officer Zeina Zaatari, and Program Associate Bessma Mourad traveled to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates for a trip to learn about issues facing women in the region and the various movements that are growing; and to introduce individuals and organizations to the work of GFW. While the region is well known for its resources and wealth, very little is directed towards women’s rights work. Our grantmaking in the Gulf region was close to non-existent, except for few grants in Iraq and Yemen. In 2005, we made our first grant to the Bahrain Women’s Society. Since then, we have been networking and researching avenues of learning more about current issues, women’s groups, and ways to do effective grantmaking.

After a long struggle for women’s suffrage in Kuwait, which began in the early 1950’s, women were able to exercise their new right to vote and run for election for the first time in May 2006. Women had a very short window of one month to prepare and run for the emergency elections held in May. Even though no women won, in total 30 women ran for election. During our trip we had the opportunity to meet with two of the candidates, who described the struggles and challenges that they faced while campaigning in a traditionally patriarchal society and where women’s political participation had been severely curtailed for years. While the recently acquired political right was at the forefront of many groups’ agenda, we also learned extensively of the issues facing the bidun community in Kuwait. The bidun, which means “without” in Arabic, are a large population who carry no nationality, and therefore have no access to state programs such as education, health, vaccination for children, most employment and other state resources. In particular, some women’s groups are addressing the rights of Kuwaiti women who marry non-Kuwaitis, and lose many of their rights, as they are unable to pass citizenship on to their husbands or children.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is currently undergoing rapid transformation and growth, as it is becoming a major hub of international business. Most of our discussions with women’s groups, professors, and activists were based around the migrant worker community, as a majority of the population in the country is non-Emirati (approximately 85-90% are foreign workers.) From working in homes, to those working in factories, migrant women face numerous violations to their rights. In one visit to a women’s shelter in Dubai, we learned the wide range of violations facing women; from physical and mental abuse by employers, to absconded women who are now caught in the legal system. The shelter houses 20-30 women, of different backgrounds and religions. Legal and psychological counseling is provided, and new programs for vocational training are being created. Despite the challenges of civil society organizing in the UAE, efforts are being made to support women’s rights, and the need is evermore apparent at this time.

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