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

Advertisements

Illusive Love

Broken heart, broken dreams

Tired of casual relationships.

Walking through life, looking

for that love that seemed so

elusive.  It shimmered in the

distance like a mirage but

disappeared as she got

closer.

 

It was the love she

read about in books.  The love

she longed to experience but

it was beyond her grasp.

Every time she thought she

had found it, it turned out

to be an illusion.

 

She imagined the walks

on the beach, the holding

of hands, gazing into his

eyes, the love emanating

from them and warming

her in its glow.  The sun

casting shadows on their

faces as they stood facing

each other, the gentle breeze

caressing them and their

arms wrapped around each

other.

 

She could almost hear his gentle

laughter, the sound of the

waves rushing onto the

sand which was soft and

squishy between her toes.

And she would look at the

sailboats bobbing in the

water as she and her

love ambled along the

water’s edge, hand in

hand.  Then she would

turn to him but he was

gone.  Instead of

holding his hand, she

was holding her sandals.

She was standing there

alone on the beach.  It had

all been a dream.

 

Tired of the dreams.

She wanted the real

thing.  The temptation

to give up on love was

so powerful and many

times she almost gave

in but…she fought it

with all she had.  She

wanted to find that

one true love that she

would spend the rest

of her life with.  It was

out there somewhere.

 

So, instead of searching

for love, she would let it

find her.

 

young woman pensive

Papa Joe

August 12, 1952.  It was a date she would never forget.  It was the day she buried the man who had been a father to her for over twenty years.  It seemed so surreal.  Papa Joe was gone.  She stood there alone in her grief, shivering although it was a hot and muggy day.

She stared at the ground where Papa Joe lay.  The tears rolled down her cheeks as she cradled his worn Bible, remembering how he used to read it to her when she was a child. When her parents had died he took her in and raised her as his own. She had grown to love the old man as if he were her very own blood.  Many of the townspeople had a problem with the widower raising a black girl and didn’t hide their displeasure but Papa Joe ignored them.  His business began to suffer.  Papa Joe was a tailor.  He knew that business would pick up again if he got rid of Cassandra but he refused to do so.  Even if he went bankrupt, he would never part with her.  He vowed that only death would separate them.

It was Papa Joe whom she shared her dreams with.  It was Papa Joe who comforted her when she went home crying because of the racial slurs and taunts.  Papa Joe was the only one who knew that she loved a man she had no right to love.  She had known Dr. Baker since she was a child.  He used to stop by and see Papa Joe.   He was always kind to her and brought her treats.  As she grew older, the visits became more frequent.  Papa Joe was no fool.  He could see that feelings were developing between them and he warned her, “You and the doctor have to be careful, Cassie.  This town will not take kindly to a relationship between a black girl and a white man.”

One night when Dr. Baker visited, Papa Joe excused himself and went to his room.  As soon as they were alone, the doctor took Cassandra into his arms and kissed her.  “I have wanted to do that all day,” he whispered when he raised his head to gaze down into her face.  “I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I love you, Cassandra.  I tried to stay away when I realized that I had fallen in love with you but I couldn’t.  I had to see you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m leaving for Paris in three weeks and I would like you to come with me.”

“Paris?” she exclaimed.  “Why there?”

“I have always wanted to go there and set up a practice.  My mother was French and your family was from Haiti.  So the language won’t be a barrier for us.”

“I can’t go to Paris with you, Robert.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t leave Papa Joe.  He has been so good to me.”

“Joe would want you to be happy and you won’t be as long as you remain in this town.”

“I can’t be happy knowing that he is here all alone.”  She could see the distress on Robert’s face and she reached up and touched his face.  “I love you for wanting to take me away with you, but I can’t.  I hope you understand.”

“I do,” he sighed.  “Well, I better be going.  Please say goodnight to Joe for me.”  They kissed and then she walked with him to the door.

“Goodbye, Cassandra.  Write me and let me know how you are doing.”  He gave her a piece of paper with an address on it.  She took it.  After a lingering look, he was gone–perhaps out of her life for good.

That was three months ago.  They had exchanged letters since and when Papa Joe died, she had written and told Robert.  She stood now at the grave, the tears falling.  Papa Joe had left the house to her and all the money he earned from his tailoring.  She had the money locked away in a box.  She didn’t want to go back to the empty house.

She had no idea of how long she stood there but the biting cold prompted her to start making her way back to the house.  She had just reached the front porch when she saw a car pull up and Robert got out.  He walked over to her and taking her arm he led her up the steps.  “I’m sorry I didn’t make it on time for the funeral,” he apologized as she unlocked the door and they went inside.

Once inside and the door was shut, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.  She sobbed, letting out the pent up grief that had closed around her heart like a fist.  Robert stood there, holding her until the sobs subsided and then ceased.

When she was spent from all that crying, Robert took her over to the sofa and sat her down.  “Joe wrote me this note,” he said, handing it to her.  “I think you should read it.”

She wiped away the tears before she reached for the note.  Frowning, she slowly unfolded the paper and read it.  Dear Robert, I know that you love my Cassie and that you wanted to take her away from this cursed place.  If I know my dear girl she will not want to leave me.  She feels a sense of obligation to stay and take care of me as I have taken care of her all these years.  I don’t want to be a burden to her.  She is young and deserves to live her life.  There’s no future for her here.  I know that she loves you and that it broke her heart to be separated from you.  She thought I wasn’t aware, but I could see the unhappiness in her sweet face and I could hear her crying in the night.  She had sacrificed her chance for happiness for me.  I haven’t told her but I don’t have much longer to live.  When I pass on, which should be any time soon, please come and take Cassie away from here.  Take her to Paris where you and she will be free to love each other.  She can use the money from the sale of the house to pay for her fare.  I am sorry that I won’t be there for your wedding but know that I wish you both all the happiness in the world.  Please take good care of my precious girl.

Yours sincerely,

Joe

Fresh tears fell.  “I had no idea that he was dying.  He was tired more but I just thought that it was to do with age.  I am thankful that I was here for him.”

“Now, you can get on with your life.  We have his blessing.  Let me take you to Paris.”  He reached out and took her hands in his.  “Cassandra, I want to marry you.  Let me take you to Paris.”

She nodded.  “I will go to Paris with you,” she said.  Her life here was over.  There was nothing to keep her here.  Her future was with Robert now.  She would sell this house filled with so many wonderful memories and leave this town which had been the source of her unhappiness.  Yes, she will go to Paris and marry the man she loved.

 

crying african american woman in the 1950s

One Day in the Park

It was a sunny day much like today when she and Michael first met.  She was sitting on a bench in the park close to where she lived and just enjoying the sunshine.  It was a long weekend.  No work the next day.   Usually on a Sunday afternoon she would be home doing laundry, sorting out her clothes for work and then watch the news as she had her dinner.  A rather mundane existence.  Her friends tried unsuccessfully to get her to go out on the weekends with them but she always had an excuse.  After a while they gave up.  And that suited her just fine.  She wasn’t one for going to bars or parties or walking aimlessly around shopping malls.  She was perfectly happy curled up on the cushy sofa with a good book.

That afternoon was an exception, though.  She had looked out of her living-room window and thought it was too beautiful a day to be cooped up inside.  So, she quickly changed, fixed her hair and face and went to the park.  She walked for a bit and then sat down on one of the benches facing the fountain.  She watched the families with their children pass by, pausing to take photos.   The park wasn’t crowded but there were a good many people milling around.

She saw a rather attractive man walking in her direction.  She didn’t want to stare at him so she looked over at the fountain, all the while aware of him.  It seemed like he was going to walk past when he stopped and came over to the bench.  He sat down next to her.

She could feel his eyes on her but she kept her head straight.  “It’s a great afternoon, isn’t it?” he said, startling her and she turned to look at him.  She wasn’t one for speaking to complete strangers but he seemed harmless.  And he had the most incredible blue eyes she had ever seen.

“Yes, it is.”

At first it was just a polite exchange and then the ice broke and the conversation became easier.  Pretty soon it was getting late and she had to leave.  They arranged to meet in the park again the following Sunday at the same spot.  This continued for a few weeks and then Michael asked her out for dinner.  More dinners followed, then the movies, then the theatre.  Pretty soon her weekends were busy.  She met Michael’s parents when he took her to dinner at their place.  And he met hers at one of their family barbecues.  Yes, she and Michael were officially dating.

“Hello Beautiful,” that soft but deep unmistakable voice brought her back to the present.  She got up, always beaming when she saw him and they hugged and kissed.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.  Had to run a couple of errands.”

She shook her head.  “No, I haven’t been waiting long,” she said.  She was just so happy to see him.  They didn’t see much of each other during the week because of busy schedules but they spoke on the phone for hours.  Weekends were their time together.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested.

She was surprised.  Usually they would sit and chat for a while before they went for a walk.  She shrugged.  “All right.”

“First, I need to tie my shoe lace.”  He got down on his knee.  She stood there watching him as he fussed with a perfectly tied lace.  Then he fumbled in his pocket and her breath caught in her throat when she saw him take out a red box.  He opened it and held it out, his eyes now on her face.  “Lauren Spencer, will you marry me?”

She began to laugh and cry at the same time.  People were passing by and watching them, smiling.  “Yes, I will marry you, Michael Donovan.”

Michael slipped the ring on her finger and then got up.  “You have just made me a very happy man,” he said, cupping her wet face between his hands and kissing her.  She thought she heard applause but she soon blotted out the sounds around her as she basked in the knowledge that she was going to marry the man of her dreams.  And this was all as a result of that one day she went to the park.  She hadn’t gone looking for love but it found her.  Life was so wonderfully unpredictable.

 

young couple having a great Conversation

 

Academic Streaming

“University isn’t the place for you.  You’re better off taking applied courses.  I can recommend some and where you can go to do them.”

When Carol heard these words, she felt as though her guidance counselor had picked her up and tossed her into the sea, leaving her adrift in the waves of emotions of disbelief and anger.  Why disbelief?  The same thing had happened to her sister and cousin.  Both had been told that they shouldn’t bother to apply to university because they wouldn’t be able to cope. And both had gone to university.  Her sister was doing her Masters in Psychology now and her cousin was a professor of Math.   Anger because the counselor told her this without even bothering to pull up her grades.

Carol was an A average student who wanted to go to university and get a degree in Biology.  When she mentioned her plans to the counselor, instead of encouraging her, she told her that university wasn’t for her.

There was a long silence as she tried to process what was happening.  The guidance counselor was busy writing something on a sheet of paper.  When she was done she slid it over to Carol.  “Here you go,” she said.  Carol glanced down at the paper.  It had a list of applied courses and the places where they were offered.

Carol didn’t say a word.  She put her book, papers and pen in her knapsack and got up. She didn’t take the paper.  “Excuse me,” she said and walked out of the office.

When she went home she told her mother what had happened and her mother said, “Don’t worry, Baby.  I will go to the school tomorrow and get you a new guidance counselor.  She did and Carol’s new counselor gave her a list of the best Biology universities in Canada.  She encouraged her with these words, “Now that you have proven to yourself that you have what it takes to succeed, work hard and see all obstacles as motivators to realizing your dreams.”

Carol is now at Queen’s University and loving every minute of it and she plans to get her PhD.   Academic Streaming is a real problem for students like Carol and many are encouraged to “stray away from realizing their full potential” because of racial bias. Carol knew that she was told that university was not for her simply because she was black.  She wants to be an advocate for students who might experience what she did and encourage them not to give up on their dreams.  She hopes the province is doing something to finally end academic streaming so that black children no longer face “an achievement and opportunity gap” in schools.

 

advising-pair

Source:  CBC; Queen’s University; The Toronto Star

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