Sojourner Truth

Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, “No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term.”
(Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, page 4)

In celebration of Black History Month, Notes to Women salutes Sojourner Truth, a devout Christian, abolitionist and Women’s Rights activist.  She was reputed to be the most famous African American woman in America in the 19th century.

For over forty years she traveled around the country, passionately and forcefully speaking for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and suffrage, the rights of freedmen, temperance, prison reform and the termination of capital punishment.  She changed her name from Isabella to Sojourner Truth, a seeker after truth, becoming a traveling itinerant preacher so that she could tell the truth and crusade against injustice.  She was not intimidated by convention or authority.  She was known for her sense of humour which she used to squash self-righteousness.  She once derided some of the women social activists who wore frivolous clothing, saying to them, “What kind of reformers be you, with goose-wings on your heads, as if you were going to fly, and dressed in such ridiculous fashion, talking about reform and women’s rights?” (Narrative, Book of Life, p.243).

She made her most famous address, Ain’t I a Woman at a Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio where she asserted that women deserved equal rights with men because they were as equally as capable as men.  She testified, “I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and moved, and can any man do more than that?”  She concluded her speech saying, “And how came Jesus into the world?  Through God who created Him and the woman who bore Him.  Man, where was your part?” (Anti-Slavery Bugle, June, 1851).

Watch this video of this remarkable woman.

We celebrate the “world’s oldest lecturer” who, as a woman of faith could not keep silent when those created in God’s image were denied their human rights and equality.  Her memory lives on in the many local memorials and tributes established in her honor in Battle Creek.  In 1997, a year long celebration marked the 200th anniversary of Sojourner’s birth.  One day was not enough to celebrate this special lady.  She has left behind a legacy survival, strength, courage and the passion to transform attitudes and and institutions.  She inspires us to speak out against injustice, inequality and oppression and to stand up for truth and to act instead of talk.

If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.

Truth is powerful and it prevails.

Religion without humanity is very poor human stuff.

“Does not God love colored children as well as white children? And did not the same Savior die to save the one as well as the other?” (Sabbath School Convention, Battle Creek, June 1863)

Sources: YouTube;  Sojourner Truth; Brainy Quotes

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Cruel Cut

Photo:  The Guardian

FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

When I read the article in The Daily Mail on Female genital mutilation, I was incensed.  I couldn’t believe the reasons behind this barbaric practice.

  • In some cultures, it is seen as a right of passage into womanhood and a condition of marriage.
  • Some believe that the genitals will be unclean if the female does not have the procedure.
  • There is also a common belief that women need to have FGM to have babies.
  • Religous reasons

Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world and even thought the practice was criminalized in 2008, it still remains widespread.  Up to 92 percent of married women have undergone FGM and most females have the procedure between the ages of nine and 12.  Some have it done earlier than nine years old.  Can you imagine a five year old girl having part or all of her external genitalia removed?  There are no anaesthetics and antiseptic treatments used and FGM is performed with knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades.  This can lead to severe bleeding and infections which can last a woman her entire lifetime.  And it is estimated that 3 million girls are subjected to this barbarism every year in the UK, parts of Africa, Middle East and Asia.  And believe it or not, the procedure is usually done by a woman with no medical background.

Girls are going to grow up believing that their genitals are unclean and only a cruel cut can make them clean and fit for marriage.   What about the infections that they get or what about those who die from the procedure like the 13 year old Sohair el-Batea?  The doctor responsible for her death was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to more than two years in jail.  This was a victory for women but more needs to be done.  FGM is still being practiced.

According to Egyptian Streets, statistics showed that 30% of married women believe that FGM should be banned but more than half were in favor of the procedure for religious reasons.  It’s hard to accept that women would be in favor of such a practice.  It is even harder to accept that they would force their daughters, granddaughters, nieces to go through what they themselves had gone through.  As a mother, I could never subject my daughter to this.  As a woman, I could never bring myself to do this horrible thing to another female.

And which religion would condone this?  God created the human body and He put everything in its place for a reason.  No one has the right to tamper with nature.  How could anyone use religion as an excuse to mutilate young girls and in some cases, babies?  And as far as FGM being necessary in order to have babies, that is ludicrious.  The reality is that FGM can cause infertility and increase the risk of complications in childbirth.

FGM, known as the “cruel cut” needs to be banned the regions of Africa and countries where it is still common.   According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that more than three million girls in Africa are at risk.  Something needs to be done to stop girls and babies from is done in ignorance and in the name of tradition.  Girls should not see the parts of their bodies that is unique to their gender as unclean.  No where in the Bible is female circumcision practiced.  God never intended for girls and women to be circumcised.  It is a man-made procedure and it needs to be outlawed.

I encourage you to watch the video of Leyla Hussein, the founder of Daughters of Eve as she talks to her mother about FGM.    You can visit Leyla’s website to find out more information about FGM and see what you can do to stop this cruel and inhumane practice.

 

 

 

Source:  WHO; The Daily Mail

Women for Afghan Women Video

I recently got an email from Women for Afghan Women (WAW) featuring a video.  The video is produced by Leslie Knott and narrated by Dan Rather.  It shows the impact of WAW in Afghanistan.  “I believe it makes an excellent case for the work of WAW, and will inspire many to support our work” says Manizha Naderi, Executive Director.

Manizha makes the following request:

* Please view the video – it is about 8 minutes long and very compelling.
* Please share the video widely — through email, Facebook, Twitter — with a personal note about your own support of WAW.  And ask people to share it with their community.
* And please consider hosting a small gathering in your home or community.  Show this video and inspire people to make a donation or get involved in some way.

I encourage you to watch the video and then share it.  Find creative ways to help WAW in their work to secure women’s human rights.  To learn more about their work, visit their website at http://www.womenforafghanwomen.org/?gclid=CLv7w7vP7LcCFaxaMgodTwYABg

Morocco to change Rape Law

Imagine being forced to marry the man who raped you?  This was the horrible reality 16 year Amina Filali faced.  This drove Amina to take her own life.

In a variety of cultures, marriage after the fact has been treated historically as a “resolution” to the rape of an unmarried woman. Citing Biblical injunctions (particularly Exodus 22:16–17 and Deuteronomy 22:25–29), Calvinist Geneva permitted a single woman’s father to consent to her marriage to her rapist, after which the husband would have no right to divorce; the woman had no explicitly stated separate right to refuse. Among ancient cultures virginity was highly prized, and a woman who had been raped had little chance of marrying. These laws forced the rapist to provide for their victim.

There are two accounts of rape in the Bible that I will address here.  The first was of Dinah, the only daughter of the patriarch Jacob.  The man who raped her was Shechem.  We learn what happened in Genesis 34:

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.  And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, “Get me this young woman as a wife.”

Shechem raped Dinah and then he wanted to marry her.  Dinah’s brothers were livid.  “The men were grieved and very angry, because he had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter, a thing which ought not to be done.”  Shechem’s father Hamor pleaded on his son’s behalf, asking Jacob to give Dinah to him as a wife.  And make marriages with us; give your daughters to us, and take our daughters to yourselves.   So you shall dwell with us, and the land shall be before you. Dwell and trade in it, and acquire possessions for yourselves in it.”  Surely Hamor was aware of what his son had done.  Wasn’t he disgraced by it?  Did he think that his son marrying the woman he raped would excuse what he had done?  And what about Dinah?  How would she have felt marrying the man who raped her?  Suffice to say, the marriage didn’t go through. Two of Dinah’s brothers killed Shechem, his father and all of the men in the city. We don’t hear about Dinah after this terrible chapter in her life but it is safe to say that she never got married.

Tamar was the daughter of King David.  Her half-brother Amnon lusted after her to the point where he couldn’t eat or sleep.  Finally, unable to bear it any longer, he dismissed all of the servants and got Tamar to come to his room on the pretense that he was ill.  She trustingly entered his room with the cakes she had made for him.  He took hold of her and he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”

But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her (2 Samuel 13:1-14).  After he raped her, Amnon chased her away even though she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” He had the servant throw her out and bolt the door.  Tamar was a virgin.  She went away crying bitterly.  She remained at her brother Absalom’s house.  Tamar didn’t go to her father to report what had happened.  And we can see why.  We learn that although King David was angry when he heard what Amnon had done to his half-sister, he did nothing.  Amnon was not punished for his crime.  Absalom took matters into his own hands and avenged his sister by murdering her rapist.

Rapists should not be allowed to marry their victims so that they could avoid jail time.  They committed a crime and should be punished according the law.  Victims should not be forced to marry the men who violated them.  What psychological damage could that do to a woman, especially a young woman like Amina?  She was forced to marry her rapist.  Such an arrangement was  unbearable for her.  After seven months of marriage, she saw no other way out except death.  Death was more preferable than staying married to Moustapha Fellak whom she accused of physical abuse.  It is a terrible shame that this young girl had to die in order for the Moroccan justice ministry to support a proposal to change the penal code.

Let us hope that other young girls will be saved from the same fate as Amina.  This is not just a women’s issue–it is human rights’ issue.  Everyone has a right to quality of life and to be protected from violent crimes.  Rape is a crime and should be treated as such.  Those who commit rape should be arrested, charged and sentenced.

It is sad that we live in a world where an unwed girl or woman who has lost her virginity is considered to have dishonored her family and deemed no longer suitable for marriage.  It doesn’t matter that she was raped.  Some families believe that marrying the rapist is the best alternative.  According to a BBC News, Amina’s mother told the Associated Press,  “I couldn’t allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.”  It’s times like these when I am thankful that I am not a part of a culture where a young girl or woman doesn’t have the right to refuse to marry the man who raped her.  Keeping the family honor in tact even if it means that the guilty party will be a part of that family is more important than their daughter’s wellbeing.

Let’s continue to hope and pray that Morocco will change the law allowing rape marriages and to curb violence against women.  It’s time to take action, Morocco and prevent more  tragedies like the suicide of Amina.  It’s time for parents to stop forcing their daughters to marry their rapists out of fear they won’t be able to find husbands if it is known they were raped.   It’s time to protect the victims and stop allowing rapists to escape prosecution.  It’s time to rewrite the entire penal code to stop violence against women.  It’s time for change.

Open quoteIn Morocco, the law protects public morality but not the individual.Close quote

  • FOUZIA ASSOULI,
  • president of the Democratic League for Women’s Rights, on the suicide of a Moroccan teenager who was reportedly forced to marry her rapist

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,2109097,00.html #ixzz2Mbyfl700

11149-Untitledcopy-1335009933-169-640x480

Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21169923; http://www.forbes.com/sites/eliseknutsen/2013/02/04/after-girls-death-morocco-will-change-rape-laws/; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marital_rape; http://zeenews.india.com/news/world/morocco-to-change-law-allowing-rape-marriage_824656.html; http://www.violenceisnotourculture.org/News-and-Views/morocco-amina-filali-rape-survivor-commits-suicide-after-forced-marriage-rapist

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

Mother’s Day Gift

Mother’s Day is very special for me.  I love getting cards from my four year old.  I enjoy going to the annual Mother’s Day tea party held at his daycare because I get to see him interact with other kids and I get to chat with his teachers but most of all, I get to spend time with him in his environment.

For me the best gift was the miracle I was given from God four years ago.  I will never forget the day my son looked up at me with his big beautiful eyes as he lay on the hospital bed.  His face was the only visible thing because he was wrapped in the blanket.

I became a mother late in life but for me it was the right time.  I had met the man of my dreams and I was ready to have a family.  Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, girls and women are forced to become mothers before they are ready.  In the Cameroon, early and forced marriage is a practice that is harmful to a girl’s health and well-being.

Association for the Promotion of Girls’ and Women’s Rights (APAD) empowers survivors of early and forced marriage in the Extreme North region of Cameroon, Africa, and educates communities about the intrinsic human rights of girls, including the right to choose when and whom to marry. Led by young women who escaped or avoided forced marriage, APAD is the only organization of its kind in the region (source:  globalgiving).

This year help to support the global movement to ensure every girl’s and woman’s right to a just and healthy life and the fundamental right to choose when to marry and have children.  Give the gift of hope today by sending a card to a loved one.  Not only will you brighten their day but you will be making a difference in someone else’s life.

International Women's Health Coalition
Give a gift this Mother’s Day that will last much longer than flowers.
Honor a special woman in your life by supporting IWHC’s partner APAD, a local organization that empowers survivors of early and forced marriage in the Extreme North region of Cameroon. Your loved one will receive a personalized card electronically or through the mail.APAD educates communities about the intrinsic human rights of girls, including the right to choose when to marry and when to become mothers.With each card you send, you support a global movement of women who are working to ensure the right of every girl and woman to a just and healthy life.
www.iwhc.org communications@iwhc.org
.

Breakdown in the Closet

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe, explores the realities and ideas of a new global generation of mothers through art, stories, and powerful new voices. The exhibition aims to turn inspiration into action helping fuel a worldwide movement of advocates for mothers’ human rights and advances in maternal health. Just recently I got an email from them to vote for our favorite community piece. The voting ended February 29.  The finalists were very impressive.  They were as follows:

Each of these stories represents an important, and unique, aspect of motherhood around the globe.  I voted for Birthmarkings because it explores self-image and how our bodies change after we have children.  Some women feel self-conscious and unattractive.  I never felt unattractive because of my husband.  He always made me feel beautiful.  My self-image after birth has not changed.  My changed body is a reminder for me of how blessed I am to be a mother.

The winner of this competition is Humaira Abid’s Breakdown in the Closet.  What a concept.  Six wooden hangers in a closet–two of them bare.  These two hangers depict the pain and disappointment that comes along with miscarriage—a frequently unspoken part of many women’s experiences of pregnancy and motherhood.  The clothes look so real.  It’s hard to believe that they are made of wood.  We see the mother’s dress and the father’s pants and shirts.  This is a family wardrobe.  A husband and wife are expecting a child but tragedy strikes.  On the floor between the mother’s and the father’s clothes, we notice something that stands out in sharp contrast–the red baby shirt.  This is meant to represent the mother’s miscarriage and both parents’ loss.

Humaira explains that this work is a part of a series called “RED” named such because the color red represents love, passion, blood, anger, and loss–all strong emotions. Yes in the subcontinent, red is the traditional color of bridal dresses, and often is associated with love, sexuality, and fertility. Yet in some parts of Africa, red is a color of mourning and death-often associated with the color of blood. She herself suffered from miscarriages so she knows how tough this can take both a physical and emotional toll on women.

As the winner, Humaira Abid receives a US$1,000 prize, with $500 going to the artist and $500 going to a nonprofit charity of her choice!  Notes to Women congratulate this amazing artist who uses her work to a very painful experience for women.  Unfortunately miscarriage is very common, occurring in about one in five pregnancies.  Some women feel a strong sense of guilt, even though it is not their fault. These are natural reactions.

Breakdown in the Closet brilliantly and skillfully addresses a topic that is very difficult for women.  Humaira’s work recognized internationally for its originality and excellence has earned her a gold medal. Her work has been exhibited in Malaysia, India, Mauritius, Nepal, Kenya, Dubai, Bolivia, Germany, Russia, UK and USA. Humaira graduated from National College of Arts Lahore, Pakistan with Honors in the year 2000. She majored in Sculpture, with Miniature as her double minor.  We salute this internationally renown artist who uses her art to take action against the issue of gender inequality.  Brava Humaira.

We are pleased to announce that last month Humaira had her first child.  Congratulations, Humaira.  We wish mother and baby all the best.

If you are interested in seeing more of Humaira’s art, check out her website at:  http://www.humaira.com.pk/

I am from a country and society where showing your emotions and expressing your opinion is not welcomed–especially if you are a woman. Many experiences and roles of women are not properly appreciated. They are simply considered to be their duty or part of life.

I am trying to raise these issues through my work, which counters the stereotypical image of women in a male dominated society. In an environment where women have a considerable way to go to become full partners of men, I want my work to reflect the aspiration for gender equality.

Source:  http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/diseases/facts/miscarriage.htmhttp://mama.imow.org/yourvoices/breakdown-closet