Today, March 8, is the International Women’s Day (IWD) a global day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It’s also the date that the Duke Center for Global Reproductive Health launched three years ago. This year’s theme for IWD is #choosetochallenge. Reflecting not only the immense challenges of the past year, but many of the longstanding gender and other biases that impact our world, the organizers have called on people around the world to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality while seeking out and celebrating women’s achievements. You can join the challenge here.
Gender bias alone is not the only challenge impacting women’s health, health equity and equal participation in the workforce. February and March are Black history and Women’s history months, respectively. This past February, twenty leading health organizations released a statement designating February 28 and March 1 as dates to acknowledge the three enslaved women, Betsey, Lucy and Anarcha, who were experimented on by Dr. J Marion Sims in the mid-1800s. These experiments led to many of the surgical instruments and techniques still used in modern obstetrics and gynecology, and while Dr. Sims had long been recognized and even celebrated for his work, this is the first year that his victims have had official recognition. This effort was started by Dr. Veronica Pimental, and aligns with the organizations’ joint statement on Collective Action Against Racism.
To recognize the Center Anniversary and Women’s History Month, the CGRH will hold several virtual events to galvanize interest in reproductive health advocacy and advances happening at Duke and around the world. We encourage you to explore and learn more about women in the history of medicine and science, starting with Betsey, Lucy and Anarcha, whose story is briefly told by Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens here, and in her compelling book Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology. North Carolina and Duke have a rich history of women challenging gender bias and making history: you can learn more about these women and the world they shaped through the events listed here. The Women’s Story Salon has been highlighting women throughout the month of march with a #StoryADay—you can follow them on twitter or Instagram (@WomenStorySalon), and add your own stories.
Happy International Women’s Day, and Happy Anniversary to the Center for Global Reproductive Health.