Women’ s History Month

I learned today that March is Women’s History Month and it is a celebration of women’s contributions to society.  Before Women’s History Month, there was Women’s History Week, the birth child of the school district of Sonoma, California which participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8 (International Women’s Day).  From 1978 to 1979, the idea to secure a National Women’s History Week lay incubated until February 1980 when it was born, thanks to President Jimmy Carter who issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the law which was passed making March Women’s History Month in the United States.  This year’s theme is “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women.”  What a great theme.  Like warriors facing bitter battles with ferocious armies, women face societies, communities, institutions and governments that would deny them their rights.  Nevertheless, like phoenix rising from the ashes, women all around world are rising up, joining together and fighting for what they believe in.  Their voices are raised in unison, refusing to be silenced, in spite of the draw backs they face.  Silence is not golden.  Using one’s voice to be heard is golden.

Throughout history, women have had dreams, hopes, plans and visions which they had to fight hard to realize.  No amount of discouragement, obstacles, nay-saying, discrimination or opposition could quell those dreams, hopes, plans, visions which had taken shape.  Women clung to their faith that one day they would be able to vote, own businesses, own homes, land, get an education, work in jobs and play in sports that were predominantly male oriented.  They had to have the courage and the faith to step out, speak up and conquer a world that had long denied them and still does in some cultures, equality, recognition for their accomplishments and basic human rights.

However, despite the strides women have made in their fight for human rights, they still face mountains like human trafficking, modern slavery which target young girls, child marriage, FGM, access to safe water, realizing their self worth and potential in societies which favor boys over girls, pay equity, access to safe water and quality education.  Just this month, the organization, Freedom United is calling for action for the following campaigns:

Show solidarity and tell Uzbekistan to drop all charges against Malokhat.

Malokhat is being targeted because of her determination to expose human rights violations and forced labor in Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.

JOIN THE FIGHT FOR FREEDOM FOR GIRLS

The fight to end modern slavery today in order to help girls like Phoebe, forced into the commercial sex trade at just 15 years old.  Women and girls make up 71% of all modern slavery victims. 

These girls should be in school getting quality education so that they would have a bright future.  Sex should not something that they engage in until they are adults and married.  Sex came from God was never meant to be exploited or forced on anyone.  It was meant to be a physical and emotional expression of a husband’s and wife’s love for each other.

Help End Forced Marriage in Lebanon

Momentum is growing to repeal laws that enable convicted rapists to marry their victims to avoid punishment. As well as the horrors endured by victims, this law means many women and girls where these laws exist are then forced into marriage against their will

Marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman not a man and a child.  And any law which allows a rapist to marry his victim to escape justice, should be done away with.  It is a disgrace to human decency and dignity and it violates the victim’s rights.  Marriage is a holy institution and is meant to be entered into with the consent of both the man and the woman.

Call on Niger’s President to outlaw child marriage.

Three-quarters of girls in Niger are married before they are adults. Child marriage often amounts to slavery, for example, when girls have not given their free and full consent, are subjected to control, exploited and unable to leave, so outlawing it is an important step towards protecting Niger children.

Imagine you have a young daughter and that a Nigerian girl her age is being married off to an older man.  At the age of twenty, Fati Yahaya has been married twice, divorced once, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth to her first child.  I didn’t have a child until I was 41 years old!  It’s so hard to fathom a young girl going through two marriages, one divorce and suffering excessive blessing following the birth of her first child.  I don’t know how many children she had afterwards or if she suffered any more hemorrhages.  And I can’t imagine giving my consent to have my daughter marry at the age of consent which is 15 or even younger when she should be in school.  I can’t imagine subjecting her to a life of “abuse and unrealized potential”.

End sexual exploitation of children in Kenya

The last place you should expect to find a child is in a brothel; yet for 17-year-old Phoebe from Kenya, this is her life.

Phoebe comes from a poor family. When she dropped out of school, she went in search of a better life – instead she has been forced to have group sex with tourists for no money.

Reports indicate that more than 50,000 children are involved in different forms of commercial sexual exploitation.  It is most common along the Kenyan Coast where the majority of tourism activities take place – in fact sex offenders travel to Kenya for this very reason: to prey on these vulnerable victims.

It’s sad that Phoebe had to dropped out of school and instead of finding a better life, she found herself plunged into a world of sexual exploitation.  A brothel is no place for anyone, especially children.  Sex offenders who travel to prey on young girls should be prosecuted and the brothels should be put out of business.  Basically, the Kenyan government needs to do something.  They need to protect the vulnerable.

Help end domestic slavery

Women and girls leave their homes every day to find jobs as domestic workers in the cities of your country.

But when they show up for their first day of work, some find out they’ve been deceived. Locked inside the homes of strangers — no contact with their families, and often beaten and sexually abused — they are caught in the nightmare of modern slavery.

What a nightmare it must be for women and children to go to what they believe is a job which will help their families only to be faced with brutality and sexual abuse.  They are cut off from their families and forced into a modern slavery.  People are not property and slavery should not have any place in our society.  There need to be tougher rules for domestic workers and anyone caught exploiting their rights should be imprisoned.  It’s time to get tough on those who exploit others.

Women’s History month is not only a celebration of the difference women have made in their communities but it is also a reminder that we still have a long way to go and that raising awareness is key.  When I shared these stories with my husband, he commented that there is a whole different world out there that we are not aware of.  And he’s right.  If it weren’t for organizations like Freedom United, Equality Now and many others we would have no idea of the realities that many women and girls are facing.

Sources:  Wikipedia; AJC.com; Freedom United

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Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

Abandoned

In the early hours of

The morning, outside of

A hospital in the city of

Bharatpur in Rajasthan

A newborn baby girl was

Discovered.

 

Her umbilical cord still intact

She had been there

All night as a light rain that fell

Her only cover an old pink shawl.

She was abandoned.

Why?  She is a girl.

 

Sadly, her story is like so many

Others in India where couples want a boy

Because they are impoverished

And raising a girl is too costly.

 

In a society where boys are

Preferred, the lives of girls

Are devalued.  They are either

Aborted or abandoned.

Adoption centres have

Been put in place to rescue

And care for babies like this one.

Their credo is “don’t dump, give them

To us.”

 

A baby girl deserves to live and grow

in a society where she is a blessing and

Not a burden because of her gender.

 

Indian baby (1)

Source:  Aljazeera

 

Hair Us

I remember a long time ago that I wore my hair in an Afro, or at least tried to, but it was too wispy and my sister had to keep patting it down in place.  Shortly after that, I abandoned the idea and went back to braiding my hair.  Had I gone to school wearing an Afro, I wonder what would have happened. I don’t recall seeing other girls wearing their hair in Afro at school so I have no way of knowing if it would have posed a problem for them.  However, if I were a young black South African student at the prestigious Pretoria girls’ school, formerly attended by whites only, I would be banned from wearing my hair in an Afro or in a natural hairstyle.

In South Africa, girls as young as 13 years took part in a protest to against a clause in the school’s code of conduct which banned wide cornrows, braids and dreadlocks. One girl wearing an Afro stood up to a man. Her defiant look told him that she was not going to allow him or anyone to tell her how she should look.

Image result for girls banned from school 2016

Not everyone shared this girl’s courage.  Many were fearful because they knew that they would be policed when they go to school. Others cried as they shared their experiences. One girl said, “I have a natural Afro, but a teacher told me I need to comb my hair because it looks like a bird’s nest.” Another girl said that her mother forced her to cut her hair because she “didn’t want to trouble” at the affluent school.  Students were forced to comb their hair before they were allowed to eat dinner.

Malaika Maoh Eyoh, 17, was  told that her Afro was distracting the other students from learning. Although she now braids her hair, she felt that the comment was aggressive and was among the 100+ young women protesting against the school for allegedly forcing black students to straighten their hair.  After the march of protest, images of it went viral in South Africa and an online petition garnered over 10,000 signatures.  And an independent audit of the school to investigate all claims of racism has been ordered. However, this has not abated Malaika’s anger.  Her experiences of discrimination over the years were still very fresh in her mind.  She recalled one incident when a student was pulled out of class and given Vaseline to flatten her hair.

The discrimination went beyond their hairstyles.  Students were discouraged from speaking African languages.  They were told to “stop making those funny noises” when they spoke in their mother tongue.  Others were compared to monkeys or told that they were too concerned with race and politics to achieve the school’s demand for academic excellence.   Still, others were told that they belonged in the poorly funded schools in the black townships on the outskirts of the city.

Schools are where children are shaped and groomed for life and success.  It is where their confidence is built up and nurtured.  Education is more than learning from books, it is about being sensitive to the feelings of others.  Girls are very conscious when it comes to their looks and they need to know that no matter how they choose to wear their hair, it does not diminish their value.  Banned from wearing her hair natural took one young woman who went to a school in Cape Town years to undo the damage done to her sense of self-love and appreciation for who she was.  It affected another young woman’s confidence in her abilities.

What is a girl to do?  Should she change the way she looks to avoid causing trouble in school or should she stand up for what she believes is her right to wear her hair natural and face discrimination and humiliation?   Well, it looks like the protest struck a chord with many and under pressure from students and parents, provincial Education Minister, Panyaza Lesufi suspended Pretoria High’s hair clause last week. The next step is to end the discrimination at the school.  An online petition has already been signed.

Sources:  The GuardianQuartz Africa; Goats and Soda

Take the Pledge

[T]he more I traveled and met with girls and learned from experts about this issue, the more I realized that the barrier to girls’ education isn’t just resources. It’s also about attitudes and beliefs – the belief that girls simply aren’t worthy of an education; that women should have no role outside the home; that their bodies aren’t their own, their minds don’t really matter, and their voices simply shouldn’t be heard – First Lady Michelle Obama

Last night, I watched the CNN Documentary: We Will Rise with First Lady Michelle Obama and was inspired and moved when I heard the stories of the girls in Liberia and Morocco who were to meet her.  It made me think of how some of our children take education for granted.  These girls long to be in a classroom, learning but sadly, they are denied this because of child marriage, pregnancy and poverty.  If a family has a boy and a girl, the boy will go to school while the girl stays at home.  And there’s belief that girls belong at home not in schools.  Those who are fortunate to get an education have to walk a long way to school in areas that are not safe.

One girl lived with her uncle and aunt because her mother wanted her to have an education.  She worked hard, keeping the home, taking care of her cousins before going to school.  At night, from 9-11pm she studied her books using a flashlight to see in the dark room while everyone else was asleep.  Her education helped to save her uncle’s life.

When the Ebola broke out in Liberia, she recognized that her uncle had the symptoms of the disease.  At first he dismissed what she was saying because she was a girl but she insisted and he was quarantined and then nursed back to health.  She had learned the symptoms in her Biology class.  Her favorite subject is Science.  Perhaps, one day she will become a scientist.  Another girl dreamed of being a journalist while another wanted to be an engineer, a discipline that was predominantly male.  You can watch her story here.

In Morocco, girls were missing school for five days.  Meryl Streep discovered why.  Here’s the clip.

http://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/10/09/we-will-rise-film-meryl-streep-morocco.cnn/video/playlists/cnn-films-we-will-rise/

Girls need to know that they are valued and that they deserve to have an education. Educating a girl will change not only her life but the lives of many.  Take action today and sign the petition for more girls to receive education.  Help their dreams to become reality. Education is key to success, quality life and opens the door to so many opportunities.  No one should be denied a basic right such as education.  Take the pledge and give a girl the opportunity to have an education.  TOGETHER, WE CAN LET GIRLS LEARN!

 

We’re in this together.  Because these girls are our girls.  They are us.  They each have the spark of something extraordinary inside of them just like our daughters – and our sons – and their fate is very much our responsibility – First Lady Michelle Obama

Source:  CNN.com; Girl Up