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Global Bridge Gatherings Rally Support for Women in War Zones

Men and women gathered on bridges in 18 countries in a symbolic effort to stand up for peace and development for women in war-torn nations. One such gathering of Afghan men and women in London marked International Women's Day.

A group of Afghan men and women stand on the Westminster Bridge in London holding up a 'Women for peace' banner. As Londoners pass by, they sign the banner in a show of solidarity for women around the world - and especially in war zones. The white banner is soon full of their signatures, drawings and messages of peace.

This is only one venue of the campaign called - "Join Me on the Bridge." On the 99th anniversary of International Women's Day, the campaign is intended to call for people to devote one day to stand for women from war devastated regions like Afghanistan, Congo, Rwanda and Iraq.

Zarghona Rassa from the British Afghan Women's association explains why.

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"Because they are very vulnerable because the governments cannot protect the women and their rights," she said. "They cannot even protect their own selves or their daughters from rape or beatings or they are not given the same opportunities as are men, for example within education, within health, and other areas of life."

But Rassa says these women in crises zones are strong and eager to break the shackles of underdevelopment.

"You will see the women and young girls, how passionate are they about having equal opportunities to be able to go out to study, for example, to finish their education and to be economically independent," she said.

According to the United Nations, women make up 70 percent of the world's poor, 75 percent of civilians killed in war and they are soft targets in armed conflicts.

Volunteer Waris Khan comes from Kandahar in Afghanistan, and he says the campaign is significant for women of his country.

"It is very special for the women around the world and especially with Afghanistan because we should show them that we have, not only the women but also the men, have solidarity with them," he said. "That they have a place in the society."

Majgan Ahmed is an Afghan student at London's City University. She says she would like to see Afghan women have rights like those women in Britain enjoy, and she has put her message of peace on the banner.

"To show that women's rights is not separate from human rights and we too should have rights in our countries," she said.

Britain is only one of the 18 countries where women are participating in bridge climbings and crossings to demand peace and development.