Balance for Better

womens day and gender equality concepts

I’m ashamed to say that I completely forgot that today is International Women’s Day.  There was a time when I was on top of these important days/events.  I’m grateful to my son for reminding me this morning.  He came into the kitchen and wished me a “Happy International Women’s Day”.  I was surprised that he knew about it and asked him if his teacher had mentioned it.  He told me that he saw it on the computer.

This year’s theme is BalanceforBetter which is a call to action for driving gender balance across the world. Women have come a long way but we still have some distance to go.  The best way to achieve greater gender equality is through challenging bias and celebrating women’s achievements.  According to International Women’s Day website, “the race is on for the gender-balanced boardroom, a gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth, gender-balanced sports coverage.” 

International Women’s Day isn’t just a day for celebration but a call to action for women and men to push for complete gender equality because “gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive”.  Gender equality benefits everyone.

A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?  Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality – International Women’s Day

Sources:  IWD; Global News; NBC News; The Sun;

 

Change/Renewal #writephoto

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Photo by Sue Vincent

I stare out of the window at the sky which looks like it is on fire.  I have never seen anything like it before and I linger for a little while, forgetting for a brief moment my daily struggle to feed three young children and my sick husband.  I push all thoughts of my brothers and their families who are currently enjoying themselves in Tunisia’s Mediterranean coast.  I suppress the bitterness and anger that struggle to rise to the surface as I try not to think about them using my inheritance money for their vacation.

My brothers pressured me to give up my small inheritance entirely.  I could do with that money right now.  They’re spending it on travel while I’m stuck here, taking care of my family.  I should be relaxing on a beach somewhere.  Everyday, I get up, cook, clean, and whatever needs to be done in this house, no matter how tired I am.  My brothers don’t care about me.

Until things change in this country, women like me are going to continue to feel helpless and bitter because of gender inequality in inheritance.  Whereas daughters inherit half of the estate, sons inherit twice as much.   I inherited half because I’m a sole daughter.  Had I sisters, collectively, we would each inherit two thirds.  That hardly seems fair.  When are things going to change?  When is there going to be gender equality in inheritance?

I hear the baby crying.  I wish I could spend a longer time watching the sunrise but duty calls.  I turn and after going over to the bed to check on my husband, I leave the room to tend to our daughter.  I hope that by the time she becomes an adult that there will finally be a change where she will be granted equal inheritance rights.

This story was inspired by an article I read.  In Tunisia, there is a law which limits daughters’ inheritance rights and provides that sons inherit twice as much as daughters.  Equality Now is taking action to change this.

This was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

Source:  Equality Now

 

Sue’s Customers

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To passersby, it appeared to be a regular shop but its innocuous façade concealed something far more disreputable. Men lingered at the display of slippers at the front until the owner went out, talked to them and then invited them inside. Once inside, these “customers” were shown into another room where Sue was. Like an automaton, she got undressed and lay down.

Orphaned at twelve, she was taken in by her uncle who was kind to her, unlike her aunt. When he died five years later, her aunt kicked her out of the house, telling her to stop freeloading and find work. Sue found odd jobs here and there but the money wasn’t enough. Then, she came to this shop and begged for a job. She got one all right but it wasn’t selling slippers.

The owner was arguing with one of the “customers”. This was her opportunity. Slowly she backed away and then bolted. She ran to a nearby shelter. Shortly after, the shop went out of business and the owner was arrested.

174 Words

This was written for Aspiring Writers hosted by Priceless Joy. For more information visit Here.  To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

The Burnses

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

 

Chuck and Millie Burns were enjoying another day at the beach.   The weather was overcast but it didn’t dampen their mood.  The cool breeze and the smell of the sea air felt really good.

An hour later, they pulled up in the driveway and were getting out of the car when several squad cars showed up. Startled, they looked around wondering what was going on.  “Chuck and Millie Burns, you are under arrest for torture and child endangerment”  Handcuffs were slapped on them and they were led away, faces red and heads hanging.  They were bundled into a squad car and driven away.

It turns out that the police were alerted when the couple’s 15 year old daughter escaped the house where she and her nine siblings were locked up and starved.  Neighbors were shocked.  “They seemed like such a nice couple,” one woman said.  “Their children didn’t say much or play with the other kids but we just thought they were shy.  It goes to show you that you really don’t know people.”

The Burnses are currently being held in custody on six counts of torture and eight counts of child endangerment.

192 Words

I read of the couple who had 13 children because they felt it was God’s calling but those poor children were subjected to torture, endangerment, neglect and starvation.  They gave the impression that they were a devout Christian couple who had all of those children because it was “God’s calling”.  I’m pretty sure that torture, confinement, endangerment and starvation weren’t His calling.

This was written for Sunday Photo Fiction hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details visit Here.  To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  Mirror

Asya Speaks Out

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Photo by Sue Vincent

The magnificent view of the snow-capped mountains and surrounding beautiful landscape which usually filled Asya with peace failed to do so this morning.   There was political uncertainty in Sweden as the anti-immigrant party made historic gains in Sunday’s election.  There was talk of refugees and immigrants being sent back to their countries by those who had no regard for what awaited them.   She knew firsthand what it was like to be torn from the country of refuge and returned to your country of origin.

At the age of 15, her parents took her back to Turkey after she finished ninth grade to marry a man 20 years her senior.  They had three children.  Those were the worst years of her life and she dreamed of returning to Sweden.  Fifteen years later, after her husband died in a work related accident, she returned to Stockholm with the children.

It was a shock for her when she recently saw the brochure offering tips to those who were married to children.  Enraged, she wrote an article on the horrors of child marriage, her own experience and why Sweden needed to be very clear that it wouldn’t tolerate such a practice.  It needed to protect the welfare of its immigrant population and stop worrying about being culturally insensitive.

It was a two page article in which she concluded, “I urge you to think about Beeta, the teenage girl who was murdered by her husband after they arrived here from Iran.  If we hadn’t been so concerned with offending a culture which fosters a practice which, in my opinion, is criminal, she may still be alive.  Instead of being concerned with the culture, protect the individual.  We need to be more responsible for the immigrants whom we let into the country and afford them the same rights and protection regardless of whether or not they are ethically Swedish.”  Her article was published in Stockholm News and was very well received.  Many shared her views and Twitter went viral, calling for the government to do something to end child marriage in a country known for its commitment to child welfare.

Asya turned now to look at the shelter she ran for victims of honor-based violence and oppression.  Most of them were the same ages as her daughters.  She determined that she would continue to fight for them and those who weren’t in her care.  Unlike the politicians and the government, she was going to be morally sensitive to the victims of forced marriages and speak out because as long as child marriage exists it will stand in the way of gender equality.  She had to do this for Beeta and others like her.

Marriage is for adults, not for children.  Children have the right to be children.

This story is based on true events.  Sweden struggles over child marriage and many are calling for the rights of children of foreign backgrounds to be protected.

This story is in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Turning for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Sources:  The Guardian; PsychologyPolitico; Express

Cai

Friday Fictioneers sep 7, 2018

Photo by Gah Learner

Cai stared at the moon as it hung low over the horizon.  Sleep eluded her.  Her husband, Huan was in Myanmar investigating the Rohingya massacre.  Five days had passed since she last heard from him.  She constantly checked her emails and cell for messages but nothing was forthcoming.

A knock on the door jolted her.  Heart racing, she answered it.  It was Kang, Huan’s brother.  “Have you heard from Huan?  Is he all right?”

“He’s in jail.”

“Jail?” 

“Yes.  For seven years.”

“I must do something.”

“Like what?”

“Ask the Myanmar government for mercy.”

Hours later, she was on Television.

100 Words

This post was inspired by the true story of two Myanmar journalists who were sentenced to seven years in prison for investigating violence against Rohingyas.  Their wives were on television asking for mercy.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.  For  more details, visit Here.   To read stories of 100 words based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Source:  DW; CNN

The Queen of Soul

“When God loves you, what can be better than that?” ~ Aretha Franklin

There is so much I could write about Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul but I decided to concentrate on the highlights of her music career and her “social and civic contributions”.

Aretha Louise Franklin was  born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee.  Her father, Clarence LaVaughn “C. L.” Franklin was a Baptist minister and a circuit preacher while her mother, Barbara was an accomplished piano player and vocalist.  Theirs was a troubled marriage because of her father’s philandering.  The couple separated in 1948.  Before her tenth birthday, Aretha’s mother died from a heart attack.  Several women, including her grandmother and Mahalia Jackson alternated helping the children at the Franklin home and it was during this time that Aretha learned to play the piano by ear.

Following her mother’s death, Aretha began singing solos at New Bethel, debuting with the hymn, “Jesus, Be a Fence Around Me.”  When she was twelve, her father became her manager, bringing her on the road with him during his “gospel caravan” tours for her to perform in various churches.

Her music career found Aretha signing on with big recording giants such as Columbia, Atlantic, Arista and RCA.  She belted out many hits such as You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman, I Say A Little Prayer, Hold On, I’m Comin’.  And she thrilled the younger generation with Who’s Zoomin’ Who and Freeway of Love.  Hearing Freeway of Love transported me back to the ’80s which were a great time for me when I was living in New York.  And who could forget I Knew You Were Waiting For Me, her number one duet with George Michael?

In 1980, she gave a command performance before the Queen at Prince Albert’s Hall, in 2009 she sang at the 2009 inauguration of President Barak Obama.  In the following year, she received an honorary degree from Yale University.  In 2014, she received honorary degrees from Harvard University and New York University as well as honorary doctorates in music from Princeton, Yale, Brown, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, New England Conservatory of Music and University of Michigan.  She was the recipient of other honors such as Doctor of Humane Letters and Doctor of Law degree.

Aretha was dubbed “one of the giants of soul music, and indeed of American pop as a whole.  More than any other performer, she epitomized soul at its most gospel-charged.”  Her voice was described as being a “powerful mezzo-soprano voice” and she was praised for her arrangements and interpretations of other artists’ hit songs.  At the age of 14 when she recorded her first album, Songs of Faith, Jerry Wexler declared that her voice “was not that of a child but rather of an ecstatic hierophant.”  A hierophant is a person who brings religious congregants into the presence of that which is deemed holy.  Aretha’s explanation for that would have likely been, “Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I’m using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I’m happy with that.”

Singing and music weren’t her only passions.  Aretha was a civil rights activist.  Throughout her life, she was involved in the struggle for civil rights and women’s rights.  When Angela Davis was jailed in 1970, Aretha told Jet Magazine that, “Angela Davis must go free… Black people will be free. I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit) and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace. Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”  Not surprisingly, her songs “Respect” and “Natural Woman” became anthems of these movements for social change.  She was also a staunch supporter of Native American rights, supporting their struggles worldwide and movements which fostered their cultural rights.

“We all require and want respect, man or woman, black or white. It’s our basic human right” ~ Aretha Franklin

It was a sad day when it was announced that the great Aretha Franklin passed away after losing her battle with pancreatic cancer.  She leaves behind a world touched by her music, her incomparable voice and her effortless work in championing human, civil and women’s rights.  She was the first woman to be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.  In 2013, she was again ranked first in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Singers” list.

“American history wells up when Aretha sings.  Nobody embodies more fully the connection between the African-American spiritual, the blues, R&B, rock and roll—the way that hardship and sorrow were transformed into something full of beauty and vitality and hope” – President Obama in response to her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.

Notes to Women salutes the woman with “the voice of the civil rights movement, the voice of black America” and a “symbol of black equality”  She was an inspiration not only for those in the music world but for all of us.  Although she is no longer with us, her music, her legacy will live on.

“It really is an honor if I can be inspirational to a younger singer or person. It means I’ve done my job” ~ Aretha Franklin

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Sources:  Wikipedia; Brainy Quote