Danny

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Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

I stood before the shed where they found my friend, Danny.

We used to hang out every day, daydreaming about how we were going to change the world.  He wanted to be a lawyer for the poor and disadvantaged while I dreamed of being a social worker.

Danny was more than a friend to me.  He was the older brother I wish I had.  I am the youngest of three girls.  My sisters didn’t have much time for me.  They were too busy with their friends and social engagements but, I didn’t mind because I had Danny.

He and I were thick as thieves.  We were inseparable.  That’s why his sudden change in behavior was a shock for me.  The sweet, easygoing guy I loved so dearly had become a stranger to me.  He had mood swings, was hyperactive and seemed to have trouble concentrating or staying on topic.  He became withdrawn and spent most of his time in this shed.  I learned later, that he was taking Crystal Meth.  It claimed his life and his dreams.

This morning, I wanted to stop by on my way to the Centre where I run a Crystal Meth Addiction Treatment Program.

199 Words.

This story was inspired by a program I watched last night on CNN about a mothers addicted to Crystal Meth.  The story that really touched me was that of a young man whose mother was taking it.  On the wall of their home hung framed photos of him as a boy and as a promising football player.  All those dreams of a bright future were dashed when he became addicted to Meth and if convicted of selling it, he faces life imprisonment.  What a waste of a young life.

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

Source:  Serenity Acres

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Take the Pledge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Source:  CNN.com; Girl Up

Rape in South Africa

I barely caught the headline about a South African girl who was raped and badly beaten.  I searched for the story on the Internet and came across some startling information.  Apparently South Africa is known as the “rape capital”.  According to Women’s groups, a woman is raped every 26 seconds.  The rate of sexual violence in South Africa is among the highest in the world.

For the period 1998–2000, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita according to the United Nations Office on Crimes and Drugs for the period 1998–2000.  It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only 1 in 9 rapes are reported.  It is also estimated that 14% of perpetrators of rape are convicted in South Africa.  According to a survey that questioned rape victims who did not report the crime to the police, 33.3% of victims cited they feared reprisals, 9.6% cited that they felt the police would not be able to solve the crime, and 9.2% cited embarrassment as their reasons for not reporting the crime.

There are several different forms of sexual violence, including, but not limited to: rape or sexual assault, child sexual assault and incest, intimate partner sexual assault, unwanted sexual contact/touching, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, revealing one’s genitals to another without consent, public masturbation, and voyeurism.  There are several types of sexual violence cases in South Africa that have specifically garnered a significant amount of international attention:

South Africa has the highest reported incident of rape in the world.  While men are also subjected to sexual violence and 3.5% of men have been forced to have sex with other men, the majority of sexual violence is against women.  The South African government reports that one of these reasons is the culture of patriarchy in South Africa. Its report states that patriarchy is firmly rooted in the country and fighting it is seen as attempting to destroy African tradition or Afrikaner ideals.  The danger from rape and sexual assault is compounded because of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in South African townships. A woman being raped over the age of 25 has a one in four chance that her attacker is HIV positive and more women than men are affected from HIV/AIDS.   The perpetrators of rape in South Africa tend to be men known to the victim.  It is reported that a husband or boyfriend kills a woman every six hours in South Africa.  Many men and women say that rape cannot occur in relationships; however, one in four women reported having been abused by an intimate partner.

Corrective rape is prevalent in South Africa.  More more than 10 women per week are raped or gang-raped in Cape Town alone because of their sexual orientation.  31 have been died from their attacks.  Two years ago Noxolo Nogwaza , 24 years old was raped, beaten and stabbed to death on her way home from a night out with her friends in the South African township of Kwa Thema on 24 April 2011.  Her brutalised body was dumped in a shallow ditch.  It is believed that the motive was her sexual orientation.  Little progress is made on her case and her attackers still remain at large.

There is also the problem of sexual violence in schools.  girls from all levels of society and ethnic groups have been subjected to sexual violence at school in bathrooms, empty classrooms, dormitories, and more. Police, prosecutors, and social workers have also complained that many incidents of sexual violence in schools are not reported to them because schools often prefer to deal with it internally, thus hindering justice against the perpetrators. The danger of sexual violence in schools has created a barrier for girls to seek education. HRW also reported that South African girls’ school performance suffers after an incident of sexual violence.

Societal attitudes contribute to this epidemic.  The Medical Research Council states, “Many forms of sexual violence, particularly sexual harassment and forms of sexual coercion that do not involve physical force are widely viewed as normal male behaviour.”

Among children, a survey by CIET found 60% of both boys and girls, aged 10 to 19 years old, thought it was not violent to force sex upon someone they knew, while around 11% of boys and 4% of girls admitted to forcing someone else to have sex with them. The study also found that 12.7% of the students believed in the virgin cleansing myth.

In a related survey conducted among 1,500 school children in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that ‘jackrolling’, a term for gang rape, was fun.  Furthermore, more than half the interviewees insisted that when a girl says no to sex she really means yes.  It is also noteworthy that those in this study were school children as age is significantly associated with rape. Men from ages 20–40 are more likely to have raped than younger or older men.

Market Research Africa, a Johannesburg-based market research agency, reported in 1994 that 76% of men felt that women had a right to say no to sex, one third thought that women could not decide for themselves on abortion, and 10% condoned a man beating a woman or his wife.

I can’t imagine why anyone would think a woman means “yes” when she is fighting off the man’s unwanted attention.  “No” means “no”.   No woman wants to be forced to have sex with anyone.  Sex is supposed to be consensual.  And rape is not sex.  It is an act of violence.  The 17 year old girl was brutally raped.  The Cape Town newspaper, Cape Argus newspaper stated that she was sliced open from her stomach to her genitals and then dumped as if she were trash on a building site in the town of Bredasdorp, 130 km (80 miles) east of Cape Town.  What is going to become of this?  Will there be justice for this victim in a country where rape has lost its power to shock?  The government of the Republic of South Africa is aware of this problem of sexual violence against women and there is a law which is supposed to ensure rights of all of the people in South Africa with the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.  Furthermore, it calls for the right to freedom and security, including freedom from all forms of violence by either public or private sources and the right to bodily and psychological integrity, including reproduction and bodily security.

It seems to me that the law has very little effect on the violence it is supposed to be protecting its women  from.   The harsh reality is that women are being brutally raped and abused and are not receiving adequate psychological, social, or medical care.  There are few places rape and abuse victims can turn.  The Simelela Centre is one of those places.  It was established in 1998 in response to a case involving the rape of a 1-year-old girl at the hands of her father in Khayelitsha’s Site C.

Something needs to be done and fast.  Women should not be living in fear.  Imagine the fear of your son growing up and one day raping your neighbor’s daughter?   The way men view women has to change.  The law has to do more to protect women and girls.  It’s time for the lawmaker to fulfill their promises.

Outrage grows over the incident, according to a news report on CNN.  Many marched the streets of Bredasdorp toward the crime scene, chanting, “No violence! No violence.”  Residents say that this attack is uncharacteristic of the rural town.  I read that the girl’s injuries were so horrific that the hospital staff who battled to save her life needed counseling.  She was able to identify one of her attackers before she died.  He was a family friend. The victim’s aunt had this to say about him, “He was a lovely child to have in the house.  He was her friend, and it’s just incomprehensible.”

He and two others have been arrested.  More arrests are forthcoming.  Two of the men arrested have been charged been charged with murder and rape, the same charges the third will face.  Let’s hope that they all will be brought to justice.  It’s unfortunate that it had to take this young girl’s horrific ordeal and subsequent death to spark outrage.  There was the case of a mentally handicapped girl, same age as this last victim was raped by seven men, aged between 14 and 20 and the attack was recorded on a cell phone video which later went viral.  The men are on trial.  Unfortunately, this incident failed to gain the same outrage and attention as did the gang rape in New Delhi.  Columnist Rachel Davis of the online publication, Daily Maverick, raised this disturbing question:  “If the gang-rape of a mentally handicapped 17-year-old failed to get thousands on the streets in protest, what will?”

The men of South Africa need to stand up with the women and speak out against this epidemic.  The perpetrators of these crimes need to be brought to justice and women and girls need to feel safe in their communities.  Girls should be able to go to school and learn in a safe environment.  Their education is important.  They should not be forced to stay out of school because they are afraid of being attacked.  Girls should not have to live in fear of being brutally raped by strangers or even men they know.  Women should not be treated as if they have no value.  Violence against women and girls needs to be taken seriously and the public needs to make as much noise as possible, letting the government and the perpetrators know that they have had enough.  Let us join the men and women of South Africa and say, “No more violence!”  In the words of one of the women from Bredasdorp, “…we must do something.”  No more silence.  It’s time to take action!  Let the death of Anene Booyson count for something.

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Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_violence_in_South_Africa; http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/south-africa-girl-dies-after-rape-comparison-made-to-indian-case-327511; http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/06/ana-matronic-backs-amnesty-write-for-rights-campaign; http://www.asafeworldforwomen.org/domestic-violence/dv-africa/dv-safrica/1386-violence-against-women-in-contemporary-south-africa.html; http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/08/world/africa/south-africa-gang-rape/index.html; http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/06/us-safrica-rape-idUSBRE9150VZ20130206

Elementary School Tragedy

My heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  I was horrified when I learned that 26 people lost their lives and that 20 of them were children as young as six years old.  I saw the face of one of these innocent victims tonight–Emilie Parker.  I watched as her father Robbie spoke to the press, telling them what a blessing this precious child was to those whose lives she touched.  Her love for drawing and her compassionate nature won her many hearts.  Watch his emotional interview.

On CNN there were interviews with the brave teachers who went to great lengths to protect their students.  One of them barricaded the classroom by pushing filecabinets up against the door and tried to keep the children calm by reading stories to them.  Another grabbed a little boy from out of the hallway where bullets were whizzing by his head.  His mother was grateful to this teacher for saving his life.  Sadly six teachers lost their lives as they tried to save their students.   First grade teacher Victoria Soto was gunned down as she put herself between the shooter and the closet where she ushered the children for safety after she heard the gunshots.  Tonight a vigil was held in her honor.  Her family wanted her to be remembered as a dedicated teacher who loved her students. Victoria had dreamed of becoming a teacher since she was a little girl and she was able to realize that dream.  She was a heroine in the eyes of many and a teacher dearly loved by her students.  Dawn Hochsprung, the principal and Mary Sherlach, the psychologist died as they lunged at the gunman.  For a glimpse of these and the other victims of this tragedy, read http://bigstory.ap.org/article/glimpse-victims-conn-school-shooting

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the children and the brave teachers who gave their lives to protect them.  It is hard to fathom why a person would shoot innocent children.  This is considered to be one of the worst mass shootings in US history and it may well force the Obama administration to revisit the national ban on assault weapons.  The ban expired in 2004.  Maybe now is the time to push for its renewal and possibly prevent another tragedy like this from happening.

Parents, hug your children.  Let them know how much you love and cherish them.

candle-flickering

In memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre.  May they rest in peace.

Children

Daniel Barden, 7

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Madeleine F. Hsu, 6

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N. Wyatt, 6

ADULTS

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Rachel Davino, 29

Source: http://www.newsday.com/news/nation/sandy-hook-victims-names-ages-released-1.4337288

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