International Women's Day: Inspiring change

young people in Gambia

‘Inspiring Change’ is the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day and it’s something that IPPF’s staff and volunteers do every day of every year. How do we measure our impact? On International Women’s Day we look at the impact our staff and volunteers are having at every level of society - from a major campaign to right a historic wrong in Moroccan rape law, to repairing women who have suffered FGM, enabling women living with HIV to earn a livelihood, or creating a safe space for young women in Pakistan to talk freely about the taboo subject of reproductive health.

These stories show women are shifting social attitudes and changing the communities and countries they live in:

Morocco helps change controversial rape marriage law

The Morocco penal code used to allow rapists of underage girls to avoid jail by marrying their victims. That’s changed, thanks in part to the advocacy work of Association Marocaine de Planification Familiale (AMPF) – IPPF’s Member Association in Morocco.

Fadoua Bakhadda Executive Director of AMPF:

“The time is right for change. The Arab Spring has changed governments’ attitudes. They are now willing to listen to civil society – they realise that women have to be at the centre of the discussion, of laws that affect them.” 

HIV treatment …and a new business

Grace lives on the outskirts of Eldoret with her three grandchildren. Two of the children, like Grace, are living with HIV. To make ends meet, she  used to do laundry for a few families living in the area. There was never enough money to provide for all the mouths she had to feed, leaving them dependent on begging for food. That was until she came across a project run by Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK) who, in addition to treating HIV, gave her training in business management skills.

She now successfully farms maize. Applying her newly acquired business acumen, Grace sold the maize and was able to repay her initial loan on time.

"I can now afford to provide for my children. Living positively with HIV has been made possible for me and I am increasingly self-reliant.”

Tea parties break down taboos in Pakistan

Girls openly discussing concerns about sex and reproductive health, is unthinkable in rural Pakistan, but 23-year-old volunteer Umm e Kalsoom has sparked a quiet revolution with her tea parties. She organises tea parties in her local area to create a safe environment for girls and young women to share their concerns about sex and reproductive health.

‘Bringing women back to life’ after FGM

Dr Comfort Momoh MBE is a ground-breaking Public Health specialist and UK FGM National Coordinator. She opened the African Well Woman Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital in London where she works to reverse the injuries of FGM.

“When I’ve done the reconstructive surgery the women tell me: “You’ve just brought my life back to me.”

Women were dying because they were not allowed to consent themselves to life-saving surgery

In Edna Adan University Hospital, Somaliland, women who’d been in labour for days were brought in on the backs of trucks after having travelled hundreds of kilometres on rough, rocky roads. Some died on the way, or shortly after they were brought in and a precious few were saved.

So it is astonishing that women who had endured all this, could not give their own consent for a life-saving C-section. They had to have the permission of their husband or father.

After two years of advocacy led by Amal Ahmed Mohamed, of our Somaliland Member Association, the Ministry of Health has allowed women permission to give their own consent regarding emergency C-section, if the husband or father cannot be found.


“Our next step is to advocate for full rights for women to give their own consent for C-section. It’s incredible that a basic right taken for granted in so many countries is not found here. I have personally committed myself to ensuring that Somaliland women know the rights enjoyed by their counterparts in other countries.”