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.


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


Press for Progress

Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is Press for Progress.  The event is celebrated every year on March 8 to commemorates the movement for women’s rights.

This morning I learned a very interesting fact which was that the earliest Women’s Day observance, called “National Woman’s Day,” was held on February 28, 1909 in New York.  It was organized by the Socialist Party of America at the suggestion of Theresa Malkiel.  An American labor activist, suffragist, and educator, Theresa was a woman of progress, as she made history as the first woman to rise from factory work to leadership in the Socialist party.  She was a Jewish woman and refugee who fled anti-Semitic violence in Russia.  Eighteen years later, she founded Women’s Day, the forerunner of International Women’s Day.  Read more about her story here.


The woman behind International Women’s Day

Why is International Women’s Day celebrated on March 8?  After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the State Council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.  The United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975.  Two years later, in 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for women’s rights and world peace.

What is the purpose for IWD?  According to an article in the Mirror, the aim was for women to have equal pay.  It’s still an issue so the day is still being held every year.

Women earn 14% less than men in the UK. Last year the #MeToo campaign also grew in momentum, after women started to speak out about sexual harassment.

The women who spoke out are known as The Silence Breakers and they were named Time’s Person of the Year.

International Women’s Day is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

Originally the colors used for International Women’s Day were purple for symbolizing women, green for hope and white for purity.  White is no longer used because of purity being a controversial concept.  Yellow was introduced symbolizing a “new dawn”.  So, now green is for traditional feminism and purple with yellow represent contemporary feminism.

Today, women were on center stage and the world watched as they protested and celebrated.  And in Canada, a family, Canadians and people of color celebrated as the ten dollar bill featuring Viola Desmond, the first black woman was unveiled today.

Viola Desmond was a Canadian black woman from the province of Nova Scotia who challenged racial segregation at a movie theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946 when she refused to leave a whites only area and was convicted of a minor tax violation for the one cent tax difference between the seat she paid for and the seat she used.  Her case is one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Canadian history and helped start the modern civil rights movement in Canada.  She has been compared to Rosa Parks as both women, uncompromising in their stance against racism gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement.

Progress has been made in the fight for women’s rights but we still have a long way to go.  In the mean time, let’s women around the world continue to raise their voices in order to be heard and to “bring attention to the most critical issues facing our communities, and our world at large” (Rep. Jeannie McDaniel).

Sources:  Wikipedia; Broadly; International Women’s Day; Wikipedia

From Abuse to Abundance

She sat on the porch, an open book

in her lap but she wasn’t reading it.

Her eyes were on the street.  She was

waiting for her daughter to come home

from school.  Somewhere in the back-

yard, she heard the piercing trill of a bird.


It was a beautiful spring afternoon.  Quite

peaceful as there was hardly any traffic or people

in the street.  This was the kind of life she

had always wanted and she thought she

would have had it with Joe…Joe.  She

hadn’t thought about him for years.


It seemed like a lifetime ago when she met

and fell in love with the handsome and

charming construction worker.  It was a

whirlwind romance.  Within a few weeks

of meeting they got married.  There were

no red flags–at least she didn’t see them.

Everything seemed to be going so well…

And then, the honeymoon was over.


First the insults came and they stung

but she put on a brave face and kept

on loving him, thinking things would

get better.  Then came the blows.

At first they were followed by tearful

apologies and gifts.  And she held him

in her bruised arms and rocked him

like a baby, believing his promises that

he would never hit her again.


The blows continued and more frequently.

No more tears.  No more “I’m sorry, Honey.”

Instead, she was blamed for what was

happening to her.  After a while she began to

believe that it was her fault.  Something about

her brought out the worst in him.  When they

first met and even after they got married, he

was so charming and loving.  She didn’t think

he could harm a fly.  But, underneath that boy

next door veneer, lurked an abusive and unstable



After years of being battered and verbally and

mentally abused, she got the courage to leave.

She went to a women’s shelter where she felt safe and

cared for.   She received the counseling and

support she so desperately needed.  No more

of looking out the window for Joe and wondering

what kind of mood he would be in.  Three months

after leaving the shelter, she learned that Joe had

died from a fall at a construction site.  The news

devastated her.  In spite of everything, she still

loved him.


She visited his grave and stood there, tears falling

down her cheeks, wishing with all her heart that

their life together had been different.  She never

knew why he became abusive toward her.  All

she had ever done was love him and try to be a

good wife to him.  And all she got for her trouble

were blows, bruises and belittling remarks.


Thirteen years have gone by since she left Joe and now

she was married again.  Bill was a terrific husband

and father to their ten year old daughter.  They

met when she started attending church.  It wasn’t a

whirlwind romance this time.  It took a while for her

to open herself and her heart to someone else.  The

physical scars had healed but the emotional scars were

still there.  She marveled at Bill’s patience.  Other men

would have given up.  When she broached this with

him, he said simply, “Love is patient.  I’m not going



It was one rainy afternoon when she was walking home

from the subway and saw him coming toward her with

an umbrella that she realized that she was in love with

him.  She married him a week later in a simple ceremony.

And now, she sat in the shade on the porch of their home,

looking out for their daughter, Annie.


Being married to Bill made her face up to the glaring truth

that Joe didn’t really love her.  If he had, he wouldn’t have

hurt her.  Love doesn’t batter, belittle or blame.  She had

forgiven Joe and wanted to believe that if he were still alive,

he would have sought help.


She saw a familiar figure coming up the street and

she stood up, smiling.  God had brought her from

a dark and painful past to this moment.  During one

of those moments when she wondered if she ever feel

safe or happy again that He assured her, “There is hope

in your future.”  Yes, from where she stood, that hope

was the life she was now enjoying.  God had brought

her from abuse to abundance.



Sources: YMCA; Domestic Shelter

Sexual Harassment

It wasn’t until Ashley Judd heroically shared her story a few days ago that I felt ashamed.  If I had spoken up a decade ago, would I have saved countless women from the same experience I had or worse? While I still do feel guilty for not speaking up all those years ago, I’m glad for this moment of reckoning. To the countless other women who have experienced the gray areas: I believe you – Heather Graham

Sexual harassment has been around since biblical times.  Joseph, a handsome young Hebrew slave was sexually harassed and then accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife.   Yes, men as well as women are victims of sexual assault and harassment.  Celebrities such as Kevin Spacey, George Takei, Richard Dreyfuss, Dustin Hoffman and recently, comedian Louis C.K. have had charges of sexual misconduct leveled against them.  This comes on the heels of the allegations launched against Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein.  Stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and more have spoken out against the producer who has been described as “a predator”, “vindictive”.

Celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Matt Damon, Quentin Tarantino, George  Clooney and Ewan McGregor knew of Weinstein’s behavior but didn’t say anything.  Other celebrities are appalled such as Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Gosling.

Sexual harassment is not limited to Hollywood, it’s everywhere.  It’s in workplaces, the military, colleges and other public places.  It’s a form of sex discrimination.  Weinstein’s victims were intimidated because of he had to power to make or break them.  Actress Asia Argento said that she stayed silent for years out of fear and feelings of responsibility and later had consensual sex with him multiple times because she felt he would ruin her career if she didn’t.   Actress Cara Delevingne said that she was hesitant about speaking out because she didn’t want to hurt his family.  “I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear.” 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (ECCOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

How should sexual harassment be handled?  For Gwyneth Paltrow, it was coming forward so that other women to feel less alone and to send a clear message that “this is over.  This way of treating women ends now.”  Angelina Jolie chose not to work with Weinstein again and warned other women who were going to work with him.

Here are tips on how to handle sexual harassment:

  • Be clear and firm. If the person harassing you is told when it happens the first time that you don’t approve and don’t find it funny, they might back off. Be polite, but firm, and don’t giggle. This might be interpreted as a tacit type of consent.
  • Tell others. Don’t keep quiet; this will only make you more vulnerable. Harassers like isolating their victims – physically and socially. If you tell others what’s going on you might also find out that you’re not the only one experiencing such situations. If more than one person lays a complaint, it significantly strengthens the case against the harasser.
  • Don’t doubt yourself. Harassers often try and pass something off as a joke, however if it’s continuously at your expense, or attacks your sense of dignity, you’re being harassed. Don’t allow harassers to make you doubt your observation, how their actions make you feel or that you’re overreacting.
  • Safety in numbers. Make sure that you’re not alone with this person behind closed doors. Take a colleague with you if you feel threatened, and insist that doors be left open if you have to be in a meeting. Make sure that somebody knows where you are at all times.
  • Report the matter. Follow procedures to lay a complaint – and keep records of all correspondence in this regard. If a complaint has been laid and your employers continue to ignore the situation and take no action, they could be liable for damage claims.
  • Keep records. If you want to lay charges, it’s much more convincing if you can give names, dates, places and the names of possible witnesses, than when your charges are unproven. Anyone who has witnessed any of these events can be called to testify if there’s a disciplinary hearing.

It’s a good thing that the victims of sexual harassment are coming forward as in the case of Bill Cosby.  It remains to be seen, though what will happen to the perpetrators.   It took courage for the victims to come forward.  Let’s hope that they will receive justice that they deserve.  It’s time for those who use their power and influence to intimidate and violate others to be penalized.

Victims should never feel responsible for the actions of the perpetrators.

sexual harassment


Sources:  National Post; People; ECCOC; Western Cape Government

Poverty’s Face

She stands there, a glaring reminder of the

society oppresses her simply because

she is a woman.  She stands there for all

the world to see that Poverty is not invisible.

It has a face.  It has a woman’s face.  It has her face.


Traditional gender role is enforced on her which

claims that her sole aim is family raising.

Confined to the home, she is deprived of the very

thing which would alleviate poverty–education.


She, like other women in Nigeria should have

a new face–empowerment, independence,

liberation.  Poverty among women needs to

be eradicated.  This can be done through

training programs and women gaining

full and equal access to economic resources.


Women’s NGOs and other organizations

need to give poverty a face lift and

help women to enjoy the right to a

quality life.




Sources:  BAOBAB For Women’s Human Rights;  Jaruma

Women and Mental Health

May 1-7 has been Mental Health awareness week.

One in three Americans struggles with mental illness but the rate is much higher in women.  Research shows that women are 40% more likely to develop depression than men.  It is not clear why mental illness is more common among women but doctors have come up with a number of possibilities.

Discrimination, Trauma and stressful life experiences

Trauma is common among women with half of them experiencing some form of trauma in their lifetime.  One in four women have faced an attempted or a completed sexual assault.  Reportedly, one in three are abused by a domestic partner.  Gender discrimination, violence and mistreatment undermine a woman’s mental health.  Stress is a predictor of mental illness.  Women juggle housework, kids even while working fulltime.  They report that they have to work harder to get the same credit as men and worry about the gender wage gap.  They have to deal with sexual harassment and discrimination in workplaces where these are commonplace.  These challenges can significantly affect a woman’s ability to cope and her self-esteem.

Hormonal Issues

Women produce lower quantities of serotonin than men due to differences in hormone levels and this deficiency can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting

41% or women suffer from some form of postpartum depression.  Some of them are overwhelmed by the demands of parenting, especially in the early days.  I remember that there were times when I felt that I was drowning–in over my head.  Once I even cried out while I was holding my toddler.  Thankfully I had God and a very supportive partner.  It helped when he came home and I had an adult to talk to. Not all women are as blessed.  Research shows that women who don’t have supportive partners, experience traumatic births, live in poverty or a highly stressed will most likely develop postpartum depression.  

Gender bias is another problem women face.  Some research suggests that doctors tend to label women’s symptoms as emotional while taking the men’s symptoms more seriously.  So, a woman who reports that she is experiencing chronic pain to her doctor might be labeled as depressed.  This happens because we live in a world where gender discrimination exists and women are seen as more emotional and less rational.  

In many countries, the way health workers spoke to the women made it difficult for them to disclose their psychological and emotional distress.  And when they worked up the courage to disclose their problems, they were either over-treated or under treated by many of the health workers.

I read in an article in The Globe And Mail that women are getting the prescription that is available more often than the treatment they need.  They are getting medication to solve their problems even when science finds that treatments such as psychotherapy is equally or in some cases more effective without the side effects.  Bias in mental health care is a hindrance to women, preventing them from getting the proper help they need.  Not much effort goes into researching how drugs affect female patients.  While drug companies like to bombard women with their pills, most of their clinical trials have been dominated by men.  And the ironic thing is that the disorders most commonly diagnosed in women such as depression, anxiety and insomnia are the ones most likely to respond to therapy.  Most women are likely to prefer therapy over drugs.  

According to Dr. Marina Morrow, a Simon Fraser University psychologist who studies gender and mental health, “Women aren’t getting access to the range of care they need.”  She believes that an effective approach to this would be to include medication when necessary but in also offer therapy, peer support and pinpoint what social circumstances lead to the illness.

It has been argued that therapy is the safer, more effective and cheaper choice.  The authors of a 2015 study by Canadian and U.S. researchers concluded that, “There remains no sound justification to prescribe drugs without first trying therapy.  Dr. Cara Tannenbaum, scientific director of the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health, believes that “the way we fund therapies in Canada does not make sense right now.”  She wrote a letter to Quebec’s health minister to make the point that even if 20 per cent of seniors with insomnia received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with is used to treat insomnia, the cost-savings to the system could be in the hundreds of millions, based on the potential falls that would be avoided.  Therapy saves on costly and debilitating falls and hip fractures.  

We live in a country where medication is favored over psychotherapy and women are more likely than men to be prescribed antidepressants and sedatives as seniors and as a result they are at a higher risk of suffering from adverse effects.  Hopefully more women and those in the medical profession will speak out against the bias that is prevalent in the mental health care.  Doctors and those in the health care system need to give women more choices when it comes to treatment.  It’s their health so they should have the right to determine how they want to proceed once they have been diagnosed.

depressed woman

The Apology

The other night when my husband and I were watching TVO, we saw a clip of director Tiffany Tsiung’s latest film, The Apology.  The film is about the more than  200,000 women and girls across Asia who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War.  “Now in their 80s and 90s, these former comfort women are demanding an official apology from a reluctant Japanese government. This documentary follows the heart wrenching and transformative journeys of Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines as they confront their painful past.”

What are “comfort women”?  “Comfort women were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II.  The name “comfort women” is a translation of the Japanese ianfu, an euphemism for “prostitutes”.”

The Japanese had what they thought were legitimate reasons for establishing the comfort stations.  It was to prevent rape crimes committed by Japanese army personnel which would curb the rise of hostility among people in occupied areas.  The Japanese Army established the comfort stations to prevent venereal diseases and rape by Japanese soldiers, to provide comfort to soldiers and head off espionage.

The first comfort station was established in the Japanese concession in Shanghai in 1932.  Earlier comfort women were Japanese prostitutes who volunteered for such service.  However, as Japan continued military expansion, the military found itself short of Japanese volunteers, and turned to the local population to coerce women into serving in these stations, or abducted them.  Many women responded to calls for work as factory workers or nurses, and did not know that they were being pressed into sexual slavery.

How anyone could think that providing women for comfort to soldiers was a good idea, is beyond me.  These women suffered such atrocities, it is heart wrenching.  “Approximately three quarters of comfort women died, and most survivors were left infertile due to sexual trauma or sexually transmitted diseases.  Beatings and physical torture were said to be common. The women who not were prostitutes prior to joining the “comfort women corps”, especially those taken in by force, were normally “broken in” by being raped.

One Korean women, Kim Hak-sun stated in a 1991 interview about how she was drafted into the “comfort women corps” in 1941: “When I was 17 years old, the Japanese soldiers came along in a truck, beat us [her and a friend], and then dragged us into the back. I was told if I were drafted, I could earn lots of money in a textile factory…The first day I was raped and the rapes never stopped…I was born a woman but never lived as a woman…I feel sick when I come close to a man. Not just Japanese men, but all men-even my own husband who saved me from the brothel. I shiver whenever I see a Japanese flag…Why should I feel ashamed? I don’t have to feel ashamed.” Kim stated that she was raped 30-40 times a day, everyday of the year during her time as a “comfort woman”. 

Comfort women were seen as female ammunition and public toilets, to be used and abused.  They were forced to donate blood for the treatment of wounded soldiers.  The Korean women made up at least 80% of the “comfort women” but were assigned to the lower ranks while Japanese and European women were reserved for the officers.  In Korea, premarital sex is widely disapproved of so the Korean teenagers who were taken into the “comfort women corps” were virgins.  It was believed that this was the best way to limit the spread of venereal diseases to the soldiers and sailors because they didn’t want them to be incapacitated.

After what these women have endured, it is high time that the Japanese government apologizes to them.  They are the voices of the other women who died, their cries against the injustice they suffered silenced forever.  It is time for the Japanese government to step up and do what is right.

Here’s the trailer.  If you live in Canada, you can watch the film on TVO tonight at 9pm.

Source:  Wikipedia