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.

Theresa_Malkiel

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

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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

Polio Vaccines

I was appalled when I learned of the Nigerian women who were gunned down because they were giving out polio vaccines.  They were killed by gunmen suspected of belonging to a radical Islamic sect shot and killed at least nine as they took part part in a polio vaccination drive in northern Nigeria on Friday, February 8, 2013.  Residents of Kano, Nigeria’s largest city, predominantly Muslim were shocked.  This area is where women usually went from house to house to carry out the polio vaccination drives since families felt safer having them in their homes instead of men.  This attack is a result based on the belief fueled by clerics that the vaccines were part of a Western plot to sterilize young girls.

Washington’s State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the killing and injuring of health workers in Nigeria.  “They were engaged in life-saving work, trying to vaccinate children,” she told reporters. “Any violence that prevents children from receiving basic life-saving vaccines is absolutely unacceptable wherever it happens.”  It is suspected that Boko Haram had been behind the shootings.  Witnesses spoke in anonymity out of fear of angering the sect whose name means “Western education is sacrilege”.

The suspicion surrounding polio vaccinations in Nigeria was kindled in 2003 when a Kano physician heading the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria said the vaccines were “corrupted and tainted by evildoers from America and their Western allies.” This remark led to hundreds of new infections in children in Nigeria’s north where beggars on locally made wooden skateboards dragged their withered legs back and forth in traffic, begging for alms. The 2003 disease outbreak in Nigeria eventually spread throughout the world,  even causing infections in Indonesia.  Nigeria is one of three countries where polio remains endemic.  Afghanistan and Pakistan are the other two.  Imagine last year Nigeria registered 121 new cases of polio infections. This is more than half of all cases reported around the world, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Attacks on health workers giving out polio vaccines are not limited to Nigeria.  The National Post did an article on how the polio vaccine program in Pakistan was proving to be lethal for health workers.  Last year in December, eight of them, mostly young, female and poorly paid were murdered in Karachi and northwestern Pakistan.   Militants in Pakistan have accused health workers of acting as spies for the U.S., alleging that the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.  This accusation comes after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.  The UN has suspended the vaccine program until it’s safe enough to restart.  This may be indefinite unless the government steps in and does something to curb the escalating violence.  In the meantime, foreign aid workers are either being killed or abducted for ransom and teenage girls volunteering to prevent the spread of polio are being killed.  The World Health Organization (WHO) suspended its polio vaccination programme in Karachi following the murders of five members of polio vaccination teams.  All were women and the youngest was 14 years old.  They were all Pakistani nationals working on behalf of WHO and its local partners.

Polio (poliomyelitis) is a contagious disease that can be prevented by vaccination. It is spread from person to person and through contaminated food and water. Polio can attack the central nervous system and destroy the nerve cells that activate muscles.  It is heartbreaking to know that children are are going to suffer from this viral disease which can affect their nerves and lead to partial or full paralysis because certain local populations are refusing to allow their children to receive the vaccine.  The communities are worried about sterilization but what about paralysis or in some cases, death?  Why don’t they educate themselves and learn more about how the vaccine works before they flat out refuse to have it administered to their children?

The poliomyelitis ( polio ) vaccine protects against poliovirus infections. The vaccine helps the body produce antibodies (protective substances) that will prevent an individual from contracting polio.  This protects both both individual vaccine recipients and the wider community.  There are two types of vaccine that protect against polio: inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) and oral polio vaccine (OPV). IPV, used in the United States since 2000, is given as an injection in the leg or arm, depending on patient’s age.  Most people should get polio vaccine when they are children.  OPV has not been used in the United States since 2000 but is still used in many parts of the world.

A global effort to eradicate polio, led by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and The Rotary Foundation, began in 1988 and has relied largely on the oral polio vaccine developed by Albert Sabin.  The disease was entirely eradicated in the Americas by 1994. Polio was officially eradicated in 36 Western Pacific countries, including China and Australia in 2000.   Europe was declared polio-free in 2002.   Since January 2011, there were no reported cases of the disease in India, and hence in February 2012, the country was taken off the WHO list of polio endemic countries. It is reported that if there are no cases of polio in the country for two more years, it will be declared as a polio-free country.

It is high time that Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan be declared as polio-free countries.  The government needs to protect the health workers who are risking their lives to protect the communities.  It’s time the governments of these countries got serious about eradicating polio so that children are not condemned to living the rest of their lives in wheelchairs or on crutches.  The people need to be educated.  They need information that would counter the tales that polio vaccination is a ploy of the West to spread infidel practices.

It’s time for the governments of Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan to stand up and do what is best for their young and vulnerable.  And if nothing is done to stop the spread of this virus, these nations will become crippled and sick.  It’s time to take action.  It’s time to put aside your fears and protect your children and their future.

His parents fear OPV will render his son impotent and that he will never be able to produce children in case of vaccination. Despite repeated attempts, they didn’t understand the significance of the vaccine. As a result, their child is disabled for entire life.SOURCE: Rantburg 2013-02-10 05:25:00

They were engaged in lifesaving work, trying to vaccinate children … Any violence that prevents children from receiving basic life-saving vaccines is absolutely unacceptable, wherever it happens..SOURCE: Arkansas Online 2013-02-09 11:11:00

Having children made us look differently at all these things that we take for granted, like taking your child to get a vaccine against measles or polio.
Melinda Gates

When I was about 9, I had polio, and people were very frightened for their children, so you tended to be isolated. I was paralyzed for a while, so I watched television.
Francis Ford Coppola

polio vaccine

Sources:  http://http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/witnesses-nigeria-sect-group-attacks-polio-drives-18437814; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002375/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polio_vaccine; http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/12/20/pakistans-polio-vaccine-program-proving-lethal-for-health-workers/; http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/info/polio-eng.php; http://www.healthofchildren.com/P/Polio-Vaccine.html; http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=149114&Cat=8; http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/default.htm; http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/topic/polio/quotes/; http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/polio.html#76XBp9gi2wMCs364.99

Hymen Reconstruction

This week on the Ricki Lake Show, I learned about women having their hymen reconstructed.  I never knew such a thing existed.  Check out this clip from the show.

Melody Meozzi, an Iranian-American Muslim writer and attorney, is a staunch opponent of hymen reconstruction.  She believes that it further contributes to violence against women.  She goes head to head with with Dr. Robert Moore, an internationally recognized Laparoscopic and Vaginal Reconstructive Surgeon who has operated on patients from all over the US and the world.

Hymen Repair Surgery, termed as Hymenoplasty is a simple surgery to restore virginity of women owing to the religious, cultural and ethnic reasons. The surgery repairs the hymen after it has been ruptured during sexual assault, agreed intercourse, sports, falls or insertion of tampons.

The Hymen Restoration Surgery takes up to 30 minutes to an hour. The surgery is performed under local anaesthesia with sedation or general anesthesia. It involves stitching of the edges of the remaining hymen together. Soon after this the hymen heals and the ruptured hymen grows back to a hymen similar to one in virgin girls. With hymen restoration, vaginal walls also tighten up.

Such procedures are not generally regarded as part of mainstream gynecology, but are available from some plastic surgery centers, particularly in the USA, Japan and Western Europe, generally as day surgery. The normal aim is to cause bleeding during post-nuptialintercourse, which in some cultures is considered proof of virginity.

I came across an article on the BBC News website about women in Asia and the Arab world who risk being ostracized or death because they had sex outside of marriage.  Many of them are undergoing surgery to reconnect their hymen so that there is blood on the sheets on their wedding night.  Others have committed suicide because of the unbearable pressure and the fear of being found out.  Read their stories.

Hymen reconstruction surgery is performed in China as sexually active Chinese women are pressured by their new husbands.  This procedure is also done in Canada.  There were lots of websites promoting hymen repair, reconstruction.  There was even a website called Hymen shop where they sell artificial hymen.

There is so much information out there about hymen reconstruction.  If you or someone you know is considering this procedure, educate yourself first.  Seek counselling.  Don’t let anyone pressure you into having the surgery.  This decision is yours alone.

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hymenorrhaphy; http://www.weirdasianews.com/2010/09/14/hymen-reconstruction-surgery-price-virginity/; http://www.indicure.com/articles/hymenoplasty-procedure-outcomes-cost-hymen-restoration-surgery-in-top-hospitals-clinics-in-india.html; http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/hymen-reconstruction-doesnt-work;

It’s a Girl Documentary

I saw this on WordPress and just had to share it.  This documentary deals with the very disturbing and heartbreaking topic of gendercide.  Imagine that being a girl in some parts in the world can be fatal.  Imagine being a girl brings death to many innocent babies.  Girls are devalued and seen as a burden to their families.  Boys are given preference.  When will those who murder baby girls realize that they are jeopardizing the future of their boys and their country?  If they continue to get rid of girls, the boys will have no one to marry when they grow up.  And how will they be able to bring into the world the boy babies they are so desperate to have?

Something must be done to stop this senseless act of gender killing.  Girls are precious and valuable.  They too are gifts from a heavenly Father who created both men and women in His image.  In His eyes we are equals.

We need to speak out and continue to raise awareness of gendercide.  In my opinion gendercide is a criminal act and the governments of China and India should treat it as such.  Those who kill and abort girl babies should be arrested and charged with murder.  This has been going on for too long and it’s time these governments take action and protect the rights of these innocent victims.

On their website, Causes.com explains that the “It’s a Girl” campaign is all about empowering activists to help tell the world that gendercide is real, it’s happening now, and there is something that all of us can do to put an end to it.  Here are all the steps you can take to get involved with the movement:

To fight gendercide in China:
– Sign the petition urging world leaders to help end forced abortions, sterilizations, and coercive family planning under the One Child Policy in China
– Donate to Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, an organization fighting gendercide on the ground in China.

To fight gendercide in India:
– Sign the petition demanding that the Indian government take immediate and effective action to protect its female citizens.
– Donate to Invisible Girl Project, an organization with multiple initiatives to save young girls and provide for their basic needs in India.

To pledge your support to the “It’s a Girl” campaign:
– Take the pledge to take a stand against gendercide.

Take action now and join the fight against gendercide.  The future of girls in China and India are at stake.

The Tale of Two Nazanins

Two women, worlds apart and living very different lives.  Their worlds collided when Nazanin Afshin-Jam opened her email one afternoon and saw a message marked “Urgent.”

Nazanin Afshin-Jam is an Iranian-Canadian model, singer, and human rights activist. She is a former Miss World Canada and Miss World first runner-up, and has been an advocate for human rights in her role as president and co-founder of Stop Child Executions.  She and her family immigrated to Canada in 1981.  Nazanin is married to Peter MacKay, Canada’s Minister of National Defence.

An international model and actress, Nazanin became Miss World Canada in 2003 and joined in the Miss World contest in SanyaChina, ranking second.  She entered the Miss World competition whose motto is “beauty with a purpose” to have a stronger platform to speak on human rights issues. Afshin-Jam traveled worldwide representing many causes including helping victims of the tsunami in India and Sri Lanka, raising funds for the earthquake victims of Bam, supporting fistula patients in Ethiopia, fundraising for Variety the Children’s Charity, bridging the digital divide through youth advocacy and raising awareness on the practice of Bear Bile Farming in China.

Afshin-Jam continues to address human rights abuses worldwide particularly in relation to women and children in Iran and the Middle East including speeches at UN, EU, Canadian and UK Parliament. She has had media features on CNN, BBC, CBC, FOX, Al Jazeera and numerous radio shows, talk shows and print including Glamour, Seventeen, Chatelaine, Flare and Vanity Fair magazine.  Just recently she was on Canada AM promoting her book, The Tale of Two Nazanins in which she writes about Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi,  a young Iranian woman who was sentenced to hang for stabbing one of three men who tried to rape her and her niece in Karaj in March 2005.

The former beauty queen started a campaign to help save the life of her namesake including a petition which attracted more than 350,000 signatures worldwide. She has also dedicated her song “Someday the Revolution song” -one of the 12 songs on her album -Someday to Nazanin Fatehi and some other youth in Iran.  Eventually, with pressure from the international community, Nazanin Fatehi was granted a new trial by the head of Judiciary in June 2006. In January 2007, Nazanin Fatehi was exhonerated of murder charges and was released on January 31, 2007 after Afshin-Jam raised $43,000 on-line for bail while her lawyers worked on her case. For her efforts in helping save Nazanin Fatehi, Afshin-Jam was awarded the “hero for human rights award” from Youth For Human Rights International and Artists for Human Rights at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

In 2009, Nazanin starred role of Táhirih in Jack Lenz’s movie , Mona’s Dream, about the life of Mona Mahmudnizhad.  That same year, Nazanin along with 266 other Iranian academics, writers, artists, journalists about  signed an open letter of apology posted to Iranian.com about the Persecution of Bahá’ís.  She won the YMCA Power of Peace Award as “Young Emerging Leader”.

Nazanin has written a book which she hopes will bring her leads as to where Nazanin Fatehi and her family are.  Since 2010, Nazanin has not heard from the young woman.  This experience has opened Nazanin’s eyes to need to mobilize world support to fight injustices against women and she hopes to make a difference on a global scale. Through her speeches and music Afshin-Jam hopes to continue being a “voice for the voiceless” and deliver her messages of freedom, peace and love worldwide.

Notes to Women applaud this beauty who is a woman of action and a champion of human rights.  We hope that she will one day be in touch with the young woman whose life she saved.

I didn’t know anything about her

No one else was trying to do anything to help her, so I thought why not me?

Nazanin Afshin-Jam

 

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazanin_Afshin-Jam