'Join Me on the Bridge' brings attention to plight of women

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Sun., Mar. 13, 2011
Diane Marion, Maggie Macha, Natalie Johnson, Annie Clark, Eva Csejtey and Mike Freeman stand up for women on the Frog Bridge. Photo by Melanie Savage.
Diane Marion, Maggie Macha, Natalie Johnson, Annie Clark, Eva Csejtey and Mike Freeman stand up for women on the Frog Bridge. Photo by Melanie Savage.

Last week, there were 464 events in 70 different countries organized to commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, according to www.womenforwomen.org/bridge/.

Make that 465.

On March 12, local residents held their own impromptu Join Me on the Bridge event in Willimantic to recognize the milestone. “This is on a wing and a prayer,” said organizer Maggie Macha, standing on the Main Street side of the Frog Bridge with a sign reading “Women for Women.”

“I just really loved the idea of something going on around the world,” said Macha. So she posted an item on Facebook, contacted local media outlets, and put together a local show of support for women. On short notice, she managed to generate a number of other supporters. The group stood on the Frog Bridge for two hours in an effort to bring attention to the plight of women around the world.

“Women in slavery? Are you kidding me?” said Macha. “Just because it’s not happening in my neighborhood, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. There’s sex trafficking, there’s slavery. I just can’t stand it. I’ve led a blessed life, but I’m doing a kind of pay-it-forward thing.”

The official Join Me on the Bridge events took place on March 8 around the world. According to the organization’s site, the idea originally came from the directors of Women for Women International’s programs in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, “two countries which have seen some of the most devastating impacts of war in recent years and where atrocities such as rape, torture and violence against women are commonplace.”  Women from different communities “decided to come together on a bridge which borders their two countries, in the heart of the conflict, to stand up for peace and an end to violence against women,” according to the site.

“Women are being raped and tortured and killed,” said Annie Clark, a Windham resident. “They’re being told they’re not human. People in the United States don’t know or really seem to care.”

The mission of Women for Women International is to provide “women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies.”

The organization supports women by providing financial aid, job training, rights awareness and leadership education to women in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan.

“For $27 a month, you can help a woman regain her self-esteem,” said Clark. “For $27 a month, you can help them establish themselves and better themselves and their communities.”

For more information visit the website www.womenforwomen.org.

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