Nisha/Wave #writephoto

sea-mist

Photo courtesy of Sue Vincent

Her sister, Nisha was dead and she felt nothing.  As she stared at the sea her mind traveled back to what happened to her ten years ago.  She was 13 at the time.  She left her home with Nisha and her husband, thinking that they were going to Delhi but instead, they ended up in a remote village.  She was sold into marriage to a man old enough to be her father.

Hatred toward her sister and her brother-in-law welled inside her.  They had betrayed her.  She trusted them and they betrayed her.  They made her believe that they were going to Delhi but instead they took her to a village where strange men were coming into the room where she was kept and looking at her as if she were a piece of merchandise and offering money.  All the while Nisha stood outside, knowing what what was going to happen to her and not having a change of heart.  She kept hoping that her sister would rush in and try to stop what was happening but she didn’t.  Fortune meant more to Nisha than her sister did.

She managed to escape and was rescued by an anti-trafficking charity.  She was sent back to her parents.  She was among the lucky girls.  Many of them are lost to their families and trapped in a world of sex and domestic slavery.  Several days later, word got back to the family that police busted a human trafficking ring.  Nisha and her husband were part of the ring responsible for selling girls to men in the same village where they had taken her.

Now ten years later, she was working for the charity which rescued her.  She was determined to fight people like Nisha and her husband and all the evil forces to protect other girls from going through the horrors she did.  Nisha was dead now but there were others like her out there who preyed on young girls for profit.  She was going to fight them.  And more traffickers were going to end up in prison like her brother-in-law.  She hoped he was rotting in there.

One thing she learned from this whole experience was that the face of evil didn’t have to belong to a stranger–it could very well belong to someone very close to you.  She felt no sorrow over Nisha’s death–only peace.  It was one less evil person to fight against.

To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil – Sue Monk Kidd

Do not accept an evil you can change – E. Lockhart, We Were Liars

This was inspired by a true story of a teenager who was sold into marriage by her sister and brother-in-law.  It was written in response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Waves at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.  For more details click here.

 

Sources:  The Guardian; Washington Post

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The Check Up

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live – Jim Rohn

Women, I urge you to encourage the men in your lives to go for their annual checkup.  I wish someone had urged my father who now has prostate cancer which has spread to his backbone.  If only it had been caught early.  He hadn’t been for his annual check up for years.  And recently, he complained of back pain but it wasn’t until it was really bad that he went to the hospital.  Now, he is in a serious state although my sister has told me that people in his condition live for ten years.  His brother had prostate cancer but it was caught in time and now he’s fine.  My father is the youngest of four siblings.

I have been reminding my husband to call and make an appointment to see the doctor for the longest time and I hope that after sharing with him the bad news of my father that he will be motivated now to go for his annual check-up.

Why don’t men like going for annual check-ups?  The top three excuses are:

Too busy – Twenty-two percent of the men surveyed said that being too busy would stop them from going to their annual checkups.

Fear – Twenty one percent of the men surveyed said they would avoid a checkup out of fear that the doctor would find something seriously wrong with them.  One guy put off seeing the doctor about a lump in his testicle and when he eventually went, it turned out that he had testicular cancer.  He received treatment and is now cancer free.  Facing his fear and seeing the doctor saved his life.

Discomfort – Eighteen percent of men say they would avoid an annual checkup in order to get out of an uncomfortable body exam like a prostate check.  No one likes invasive examinations–for women, it’s the pap smear but like it or not, we have to do it every two years.  The little discomfort lasts but a few seconds and it could save your life.

When it comes to our health or that of someone we love, we must never procrastinate getting symptoms checked out.  Don’t let fear or make excuses.  Your health matters and should never be taken lightly or for granted.

Sources:  Men’s HealthBrainy Quote

Keeping Them Safe

Childhood is the most beautiful of all life’s seasons – Author Unknown

Remember when you were a child how you used to blow bubbles and your face lit up with excitement when you got really big ones?  Oh, the simple things in life that children enjoy.  If only they could remain in their little world of wonder, exploration, discovery and innocence.

As a parent, I wish I could keep my son in a bubble where evil people didn’t exist.  I wish he didn’t have to be told not to talk to or go anywhere with strangers.  Growing up in Guyana, children could play in safety.  When their parents weren’t around, neighbors would watch out for them.  I lived in a bubble. There were so many things I didn’t know about or was exposed to.  I never knew that sexual predators existed or ever heard about pedophilia until I moved to North America.  Maybe those things existed but I wasn’t privy to them and I’m thankful for that because I don’t know how the knowledge would have affected my childish brain.

Is it foolish or naive to want to protect your children from what is out there?  Are we helping them when we put off telling them about the dangers that exist?  There are things I wish I never knew about but would I be any better off living in ignorance?  Is ignorance really bliss?  Not in this age when lack of knowledge and little or no awareness can make the difference between our safety and harm.  Our children need to know that there are dangerous people out there who wouldn’t think twice about harming them or worse…

How do you tell them?  You can do it in such a way that they don’t get scared or anxious.  My ten year old suggests that the parent tell the child a story because a child would rather listen to a story than hear the message spoken plainly.  This reminds me of Jesus who spoke to people in parables when He wanted to teach them valuable lessons.

Other ways to keep our kids safe when they are away from home, school, in the street, the park or playground are colouring pictures, quizzes, activities or stories.  Having your child practice ‘Just say NO to strangers’ rule particularly through supervised role play gives him or her the confidence to deal if a stranger approaches and tries to trick them into getting into a car or pretends to have a lost dog or gift for the child.

To find websites that may help parents, teachers or caretakers to teach children about stranger danger and child protection, please click on this link.  In the News clip featuring Safety Now – Stranger Danger, parents were disturbed to see how a friendly stranger was able to lure some children away to help him to find his lost dog.  At the end of the video, the following tips are given:

  • Don’t take you eyes off the child
  • The child should back away
  • The child should yell and run to a parent

Dr. Phil said that there are steps we can take to protect our kids without scaring them.  Here are the steps:

  • Talk to your kids early and often. Teach them to self-protect. Don’t be afraid that you’ll make them paranoid. Children actually feel empowered when they feel understand that they have the power to protect themselves.
  • Don’t ask children to deal with adult issues. Explain things in terms they can understand, such as good and evil. Don’t share the gory details with them.
  • Tell your kids to avoid strangers. Adults just don’t ask kids for directions.
  • While it’s important for children to respect adults and those in authority, give them permission to act impolite, rude, or scream and yell when they feel that something’s not right. It’s OK for them to make a scene or to yell for help, and let them know they will not get in trouble if they were mistaken.
  • Teach kids to yell with specificity: “This is not my Daddy!” or “Somebody help me!”

The safety of our children is our responsibility.   They have a right to grow up and feel safe.

Sources:  Free for Kids; YouTube; Quotey Quotes; Dr. Phil

World Water Day

Photo:  Hope Spring Water

Imagine this is your daughter fetching water in the container on top of her head.  It’s heavy and who knows how long she had to travel to find it.  This is the reality of girls in Africa and Asia.

Today is World Water Day and this year’s theme is:  Nature for Water exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

According to the World Water Day Organization, “damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods.  Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.”

Preserving nature will keep our water clean and that will benefit us.  Polluted environment leads to polluted water which leads to poor health or death.  Water is something that many of us take for granted which is a shame in some countries, many people face a water crisis.  For them, clean water would be their talisman because it would protect them from diseases which could lead to death.

Water connects every aspect of life. Access to safe water and sanitation can quickly turn problems into potential – unlocking education, work opportunities, and improved health for women, children and families across the world.

Today, 1 in 9 people lack access to safe water; 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have a mobile phone than a toilet. We can change this.

Check out this video.

I cringe when I see how people waste water.  One of my relatives lets the kitchen pipe run while she is busy doing other things.  Once when we were visiting her and my husband saw her doing that, he turned off the tap.  All that wasted water going down the sink and there are families who don’t have any running water for bathing, washing or cooking.  Tap water is better than no water and it can always be boiled.

 

The water crisis is a women’s crisis.  And here’s why:

Photo:  Getty Images

Women are disproportionately affected by the water crisis, as they are often responsible for collecting water. This takes time away from work, school and caring for family. Lack of water and sanitation lock women in a cycle of poverty.

Empowering women is critical to solving the water crisis. Involving women can make water projects 6 to 7 more times effective. When women have access to safe water, they can pursue skills outside of their traditional roles and experience greater autonomy and independence.

Women and girls spend up to six hours collecting water.  They travel long distances to find it and then have to retrace their steps back home, carrying heavy containers.

It is a health crisis because many don’t have access to safe, clean water and as a result, many die from water, sanitation and hygiene related diseases.  Having access to safe water will reduce child and maternal mortality rates, improved health, reduced physical injuries from constantly carrying heavy loads of water and reduce the risk of rape, assault and danger and increased safety for women and girls face when they have no choice but to go to remote and dangerous places to relieve themselves.

The water crisis is an education crisis because it is the responsibility of the children to collect water for their families.  It reduces their time in class and being able to play. And 1/3 of schools lack access to basic water and sanitation.  Can you imagine this happening in your child’s school?

It is an economic crisis.  Without access to safe water, families are unable to pursue education and work opportunities that would break the cycle of poverty.  The loss of money due to lack of basic water and sanitation is staggering.  It is simply amazing how much of a difference access to clean water would make in the lives of so many people.

We are encouraged to take action because everyone should be entitled to safe water.

ADRA Canada is changing lives by providing people with new ways to access, conserve, purify and use water. With your partnership ADRA is able to provide families with life-giving water. You can help provide water to those without.

Watch this video and think about how you would like to help ADRA Canada to give the gift of water.

Sources:  ADRA Canada; World Water Day; Water.org

God Sees Them

Photo:  CTV News

“No one is invisible to God,” my nine year old son declared after I finished reading the Bible with him.  I asked him to expand on that and he said that it doesn’t matter if a person goes into a secret place, God will see him.  And that brought to my mind what David wrote in psalm 139:7-12.

Where shall I go from Your spirit,
    or where shall I flee from Your presence?
 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
 If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell at the end of the sea,
 even there Your hand shall guide me,
    and Your right hand shall take hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light shall be as night about me,”
 even the darkness is not dark to You,
    but the night shines as the day,
    for the darkness is like light to You.

It’s comforting to know that no matter where we are, God sees us.  No one escapes His notice or His presence.  Not even the homeless people who are huddled against the wall or buried under blankets while people pass by them as if they aren’t there.  They are not nameless or faceless dregs of society.  They too were created in His image and through many organizations, churches and individuals, He shows His love and compassion.

homeless man holding person's hand

Photo:  Shutterstock

Homelessness is not an invisible problem and it will not go away any time soon but as a society, we can do something about it.  Mother Nature Network offers 9 ways to help the homeless:

1. Educate yourself. There are myriad reasons why a person becomes homeless — lack of affordable housing, loss of a job, divorce, illness, substance abuse, domestic abuse, et cetera. One of the first steps you can take toward helping the homeless is trying to understand how they got there in the first place.

2. Show some respect. Don’t treat a homeless person as if she were invisible. Say, “good morning,” when you pass or strike up a conversation on a park bench. Many people experiencing homelessness say that the loss of dignity that accompanies their situation is harder to bear than the actual loss of physical things.

3. Donate. Clothing is a big one here, as are shoes and food. Non-perishable items are always in short supply at food pantries and homeless shelters. Other items that might be needed include blankets, coats, books and small kitchen items, such as cups and utensils. If you are donating to a homeless shelter or another organization that helps the homeless, consider donating office supplies, electronics, appliances, phone cards or other items that might help those who help the homeless. If you see someone who is homeless in winter, offer blankets, food or tarps (if you can’t convince them to go to a shelter).

4. Volunteer. Sign up to work an evening shift at your local homeless shelter. Answer phones, sort mail, serve food, wash dishes, distribute clothes, babysit kids, clean floors, fix a leaky toilet. Find out what they need and how you can help.

5. Teach. Put your skills to good use by sharing them with the homeless. Organize classes through your local shelter to teach typing, accounting, plumbing, carpentry, child care, nutrition or even a new language. Those skills can help a homeless person find work and maybe even a better life.

6. Reach out. Invite a homeless person to your place of worship or a local community event. Organize an outing to take homeless kids to the movies or an ice skating rink. Offer moral support when you can.

7. Seek out job opportunities. Encourage your church or community center to hire a homeless person to paint, clean, type, answer phones or any other work that might fit. Many homeless people want to work but can’t find regular employment.

8. Get techy. Use your smartphone or other gadget to help the homeless. In San Francisco, download the app HandUp to read the stories of homeless people in your area and donate directly to those in need. In New York, the WeShelter app can help you learn how to get involved. And in Atlanta, every post you upload on the Luv4wrd app equals a coat, blanket or pair of gloves to someone living on the streets. Live somewhere else? Use a Google search to find a homeless app to help the people in your community.

9. Advocate. Call your local homeless shelters to find out what items are needed, then contact your local scout troops or civic organizations to organize food drives or other fundraising events to pull those items together. Follow local politics and speak up at town council meetings on issues of homelessness and programs for the homeless. Write editorial letters to your local newspaper about the issue of homelessness in your community and what people can do to help.

Homelessness isn’t their problem but our problem.  We are urged to help the homeless and the needy.  For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’ (Deuteronomy 15:11).  Let us not pass the homeless on the street as if they are invisible.  Let us look the problem in the face and do what we can.

She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy – Proverbs 31:20

Photo above:  WOW Amazing

Sources: Bible Gateway;  Open Bible

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

national-native-hiv-aids-awareness-day

Courtesy:  Indian Country Today

It was just few days ago when I learned that March was designated as Women’s History Month.  Well, today, an identical thing happened to me which prompted me to put this post together in a hurry.  I found out just a few minutes ago that today is National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.  I also discovered that my ignorance of the day is not surprising given that it is a little known observance day.  NNHAAD is a day geared toward drawing attention to and building support for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care among American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian populations.  Here are some facts, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

  • Among American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), women account for 29% of the HIV/AIDS diagnoses. 
  • For Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NH/PI) populations given a diagnosis, 78% were men, 21% were women, and 1% were children (under 13 years of age) in 2005.
  • From 2007 to 2010, new HIV infections among AI/NA populations increased by 8.7% (CDC).

While these percentages may seem low, one must remember to take into account the size of these populations compared to more populous races and ethnicities in the U.S. For example, according to the CDC, in 2005 American Indians and Alaska Natives ranked 3rd in rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis, following blacks and Hispanics. To put this into numbers, the rate of new HIV/AIDS infections in 2008 per 100,000 persons were:

  • 73.7 Black/African American
  • 25.0 Hispanic/Latinos
  • 22.85 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders 
  • 11.9 American Indian and Alaska Native 
  • 8.2 Whites
  • 7.2 Asians

Given that many of these populations live in rural areas, access to health care services can be difficult. Not to mention other roadblocks to obtaining needed services such as language and cultural barriers. Native communities have some of the shortest survival times after diagnosis of HIV/AIDS of all race and ethnicity groups in the U.S.

The report also showed that Native communities are not accessing the much needed care and attention after being diagnosed with HIV.  I also learned that about 26% are living with HIV and don’t even know it.  So, this means that since they don’t know that they have it, they wouldn’t seek medical help.  On the other hand, those who know that they have it, take steps to protect their health and take action to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Thankfully, there are public services like the IHS (Indian Health Service), an agency whose mission is to raise the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level.  Our goal is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people.  The IHS operates within Department of Health and Human Services.

The IHS National HIV/AIDS Program is committed to partnering with communities to create lasting change in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We provide programs to assist individuals, families, communities, and health care providers to:

  • Understand how HIV is spread, and share knowledge about HIV with others
  • Get tested for HIV
  • Put policies and procedures in place to offer a HIV testing as a routine part of all health care
  • Improve access to care, treatment, and prevention services needed by people living with HIV and AIDS

IHS providers throughout the country are offering screening more often, collaborating with communities to increase education, and offering care or referrals where direct care is not available. We can all help to reduce the stigma within our culture and among health care providers regarding HIV/AIDS.

I was shocked to learn that March 20, 2016 was the tenth anniversary of this annual awareness day.  I wonder how many people out there who even know that it exists.  Awareness, education and access are key.  And I applaud the many dedicated organizations that are currently working hard within the Indigenous communities to break down barriers and to promote HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.   

The theme for 2016 was:  “Hear Indigenous Voices: Uniting the Bold Voices of American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islanders.” Last year’s was:  theme is “Unity in CommUnity, Stand Strong to Prevent HIV.” On this day, we recognize the impact of HIV/AIDS on American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.  The theme this year is “Unity in CommUNITY: Stand Strong for HIV Prevention.

It is my hope and prayer that long after this year’s National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day passes, that more people will find ways to stand strong for the Native communities.  We have heard the Indigenous voices, stood with them as we recognized that they are impacted by HIV/AIDS and now we must stand strong for prevention.  We have heard the voices, now it is time to be united in the fight to change the tide in this epidemic which discriminates against no one.  The HIV/AIDs is not one group’s or community’s fight but everyone’s fight.

Sources:  Humanitas Global Development; Indian Country Today; Indian Health Service

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