Making History in Science

Notes to Women congratulate Victoria Kaspi for being the first woman to win the Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal, Canada’s top Science award in its 25 year history.  This long overdue win is a reminder that gender inequality is prevalent in Canadian Academia.

Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council who hands out the prize, acknowledged that this was a very important moment.  “It signals to girls and young women that Science is exciting and it’s possible to achieve the highest honour.”

It is unfortunate that it has taken this long for a woman to win this prestigious prize but Dr. Pinto believes that the reason for this is women account for only 14 per cent of the scientists who receive funding from the Research Council at the full professor level and only 9 per cent when the life sciences are excluded.

Dr. Kaspi was born in Austin Texas.  She spent her earliest years in the United States and Israel before the family moved to Montreal, her mother’s hometown.  Growing up, Dr. Kaspi did not have a particular interest in space or Astronomy.  She loved hockey and had an avid interest in logic and mathematical puzzles.  Her love for Science came when she was a teenager and took her first course.  She studied Physics at McGill and it was at Princeton University where she became interested in the work of Astrophysicist, Joe Taylor who would later win the Nobel Prize.  Dr. Kaspi worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before eventually returning to McGill and Montreal where she feels most at home.

Life is busy for Dr. Kaspi who is raising three children with her husband, cardiologist David Langleben which leaves her little time to do much else.  As a result, she has to work late into the night when she is better able to concentrate on her research.  It would be a tremendous weight off the shoulders of female faculty members if the universities would do more to support them so that they don’t have to choose between their professional success and family life.  When it comes to her research, Dr. Kaspi needs more flexibility. “Research is not a 9-to-5 job.  You get inspired, you have an idea, you’re dying to solve it, and within the confines of all these constraints that are imposed on you, it’s hard.”  At 48, she considers herself lucky that she was not a victim of the overt sexual harassment as a young researcher but is aware of the gender issues on campus.

We share the sentiments of Christine Wilson, a McMaster University Astronomer and President of the Canadian Astronomical Society who praised the selection of Dr. Kaspi as this year’s gold medal winner. “The fact that she is the first woman ever to receive the Herzberg Medal is the icing on the cake for me.”

Let us hope that it will not take another 25 years for another woman to achieve this honour.

 

 

Source:  The Globe and Mail

Mary Seacole

I just finished reading a very long but interesting biography of Mary Seacole. When I mentioned her to my husband, he immediately knew who I was talking about. He’s from Jamaica where Mary was born. She was born on November 23, 1805 to a Scottish father and Jamaican mother. Her father was a soldier in the British Army and her mother was a free woman. Mrs. Seacole was a doctress, a healer who used traditional Caribbean and African herbal remedies. She ran Blundell Hall, a boarding house, considered one of the best hotels in Kingston. It was from watching and helping her mother, that Mary became interested in nursing.

Mary was proud of her Scottish ancestry and called herself a Creole. Legally, she was classified a mulatto, a multiracial person with limited political rights. She was also very proud of her black ancestry. “I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related—and I am proud of the relationship—to those poor mortals whom you once held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns.” Being the educated daughter of a Scottish officer and a free black woman with a respectable business would have afforded Mary a high position in Jamaican society.

Mary married Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole, rumored to have been the illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson and his mistress, Emma, Lady Hamilton. Edwin was a merchant. The newly married couple moved to Black River where they opened a provisions store which failed to succeed. In the early 1840s, they returned to Blundell Hall.

During the years 1843 and 1844, disasters struck Mary and her family. They lost much of the boarding house in a fire on Kingston. Blundell Hall burned down and was replaced by the New Blundell Hall which was deemed “better than before.” She lost her husband and then her mother. Overcome with grief, Mary didn’t move for days. Then she composed herself and assumed the role of manager of her mother’s hotel and plunged herself into work, turning down many offers of marriage. She became a widely respected among the European military visitors to Jamaica who frequently stayed at Blundell Hall.

During the cholera epidemic of 1850 which killed 32,000 Jamaicans, she treated patients and blamed the outbreak to infection brought on a steamer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Shortly after she arrived in Cruces, Panama where her half-brother moved, cholera struck. Familiar with the disease and having treated those who had the infection, Mary moved into action, treating the first victim who survived. This did wonders for her reputation and many patients were brought to her as the infection spread. The epidemic raged, causing many casualties which filled Mary with exasperation with the victims, claiming that they “bowed down before the plague in slavish despair.” Towards the end, she too became sick but managed to pull through.

During the Crimean War, disease broke out and hundreds perished, mostly from cholera. Hundreds more died while waiting to be shipped out or on the voyage. It was during this time that Florence Nightingale was charged with the responsibility of forming a detachment of nurses to be sent to the hospital to save lives. After suitable candidates were selected following interviews, Florence left for Turkey. Mary tried to join the second group of nurses to the Crimea. She applied to the War Office and other government offices but arrangements for departure were already underway. She applied to the Crimean Fund, a fund raised by the public to support the wounded in Crimea for sponsorship to travel there but again, she was refused. Resolute, she decided to travel to Crimea using her own resources and to open a British Hotel.

On the ship Malta, Mary met a doctor who recently left Scutari, where Florence Nightingale was. He wrote Mary a letter of recommendation to Florence. Mary visited Florence at the Barrack Hospital in Scutari, asking for a bed for the night as she planned to travel to Balaclava the following day to join Thomas Day, her Caribbean acquaintance. In her memoirs, Mary mentioned that Florence was very friendly. They found a bed for her and breakfast was sent to her in the morning.

As she had planned, Mary opened the British Hotel near Balaclava. Meals were served there and there was outside catering. It prospered. Meals and supplies were provided for the soldiers. One frequent visitor was Alexis Soyer, a French chef who advised her to concentrate on food and beverage service and not to have beds for visitors as the few either slept on board the ships in the harbor or in tents in the camps.

The Special Correspondent of The Times newspaper highly commended Mary’s work, citing, “Mrs. Seacole…doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battle-field to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow’s blessings.”

Florence Nightingale acknowledged favorable views of Mary to Soyer and Mary had told him how kindly Florence had given her board and lodging. When Soyer mentioned Mary’s inquiries of her, Florence responded pleasantly and with a smile that , “I should like to see her before she leaves, as I hear she has done a great deal of good for the poor soldiers.” Yet, Florence didn’t want her nurses to associate with Mary and in a letter to her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, she insinuated that Mary had kept a “bad house” in Crimea and was responsible for “much drunkenness and improper conduct”. This letter came at the time when Mary approached Sir Harry for the opportunity to assist in the Franco-Prussian War because of his involvement in the British National Society for the Relief of the Sick and Wounded.

In spite of this, Mary moved in royal circles. Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a nephew of Queen Victoria was one of Mary’s customers in Crimea when he was a young Lieutenant. Perhaps as a token of gratitude and appreciation, he carved a marble bust of her in 1871 which was exhibited in the Royal Academy summer exhibition a year later. Mary also became the personal masseuse to the Prince of Wales who suffered from white leg rheumatism.

Sadly, while she was well-known at the end of her life, Mary quickly faded from public memory and her work in Crimea was overshadowed by Florence Nightingale’s for many years. And there were controversies surrounding Mary. It has been argued that she is being promoted at the expense of Florence Nightingale. According to Professor Lynn McDonald, “…support for Seacole has been used to attack Nightingale’s reputation as a pioneer in public health and nursing.”

There are claims that her achievements have been exaggerated for political reasons and a plan to erect a statue of her at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, describing her as “pioneer nurse” has sparked some outrage. According to those who oppose, Mary has no connection with the institution whereas Florence Nightingale did. In Dr. Lang’s opinion, she “does not qualify as a mainstream figure in the history of nursing.”

Mary’s name appears in an appendix to the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum, as an example of a significant Victorian historical figure but teachers are not required to include her in their lessons. At the end of 2012, it was reported that she would be removed from the National Curriculum. This was opposed by Greg Jenner, the historical consultant to Horrible Histories. He believes that removing Mary from the curriculum would be a mistake in spite of the fact that her medical achievements have been exaggerated.

In January 2013, Operation Black Vote launched a petition to request that Education Secretary Michael Gove not drop Mary Seacole or Oloudah Equiano from the National Curriculum. Reverend Jesse Jackson and others wrote a letter to The Times, protesting the proposed removal of Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. The campaign was a success as Michael Gove was forced to concede after receiving approximately 35,000 signatures.

Today, Mary Seacole is remembered in the Caribbean. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 1954, the headquarters of the Jamaican General Trained Nurses’ Association was christened “Mary Seacole House”. This was quickly followed by the naming of the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. A ward at the Kingston Public Hospital is named in her memory. In Britain, buildings and organization now commemorate her by name and near the bottom of Fleet Street in London a Seacole Lane existed until it was redeveloped in the 1980s.

Notes to Women celebrate this pioneer in healing and helping those who were sick. She may not have been a registered nurse and her achievements may have been exaggerated but what matters is that she had the heart for nursing. There are some in the nursing profession who not in it because it is their passion. Mary Seacole had the heart and the passion for nursing and she was a blessing to many of those whom she treated. We think that this phenomenal woman should be recognized for what she has done.

She is a role model for all of us.  She was proud of her heritage.  She defied racism and bigotry and she embarked on her calling to help others, not allowing rejection or any other obstacles to get in her way.  If you have a goal in life, make it happen.  Don’t dream.  Act.  Florence Nightingale was not the only light.  Like Mary Seacole, you can be light too wherever you are.

I must say that I don’t appreciate your friend’s kind wishes with respect to my complexion. If it had been as dark as a nigger’s, I should have been just as happy and useful, and as much respected by those whose respect I value: and as to his offer of bleaching me, I should, even if it were practicable, decline it without any thanks.

I have a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related to those poor mortals you once held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns. Having this bond, and knowing what slavery is, having seen with my eyes and heard with my ears proof positive enough of its horrors, is it surprising that I should be somewhat impatient of the airs of superiority which many Americans have endeavoured to assume over me.

I have always noticed what actors children are……….whatever disease was most prevalent in Kingston, be sure my poor doll soon contracted it…….before long it was very natural that I should seek to extend my practice, and so I found other patients in the cats and dogs around me.

Doubts and suspicions rose in my heart for the first and last time, thank Heaven. Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?

 

Mary Secole

 

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Seacole; http://www.biographyonline.net/humanitarian/quotes/mary-seacole.html

Five Year Old Rape Victim

When I saw on the news that a five year old girl was raped by a man in his twenties, I was livid.  As a mother of a five year old, I was greatly affected by this horrific crime.  Apparently he was a tenant in the girl’s house.  How could a grown man do commit such a horrific act on a child?  What is the government of India doing about this?  Why is rape so rampant in the country?  Women and girls are not safe.  What will happen to the rapist of this child?  I hope that he will get the punishment he deserves.

I learned today that the police arrested a second man in connection with the abduction and rape of the little girl.  This youngest of the rape victims so far was not only raped but tortured.  According to BBC News, she was taken hostage on Monday and attacked in a locked room for over 48 hours.  Once found guilty, these men should be thrown into jail without any possibility of being released.  This way they cannot hurt another innocent child.  They should be made an example to others who might be thinking of committing similar violent crimes.

It has also been reported that the little girl is showing signs of improvement but the people of New Delhi have erupted into protests again.  They are saying that the police are not doing enough to prevent rape in their country.  Enough is enough!  It’s time the police do their job.  Let us raise our voices in protest and soladarity with the people of India and demand justice for the five year old rape victim.

Source:  http://www.news.com.au/world-news/indian-rape-victim-5-improving/story-fndir2ev-1226625464082

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

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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

Death of Baby Falak

This evening I received an email update from Dreamcatchers For Abused Children about the death an Indian baby girl named Falak who survived two cardiac arrests and a meningitis infection contracted during treatment.  She was admitted to the hospital covered in human bite marks.  The Doctors in Delhi said the battered two-year-old suffered a fatal heart attack.  This was tragic news for many who were rooting for the toddler, especially as she showed signs of improvement after being taken off life support and taken out of intensive care before her sudden death.

Neurosurgeon Dr Deepak Aggarwal said: ‘The reasons that triggered the cardiac arrest are still not known. An autopsy will be conducted on Friday and that may throw some light.’  He told the Economic Times: ‘The atmosphere is very grim in the hospital because all the staff was emotionally attached to her.’

Police are investigating the crime and 13 arrests were made, including that of Raj Kumar, the man accused of leaving Baby Falak with his 14-year-old girlfriend.  Raj is the child’s foster father.  Her mother is believed to be a 22 year old woman who allegedly abandoned Falak at the home of a woman named as Lakshmi, a resident of Uttam Nagar.

My heart aches when I think of what this precious child went through at the hands of people who should have cared for her.  When she was taken to the hospital, she was suffering from horrendous injuries such broken arms and a smashed skull.  And bite marks.  How could anyone bite another person, especially a child?

I have read what happens to baby girls in India.  They are aborted, abandoned and regarded as a burden on their families because of the dowry their parents would have to pay when they are older.  And according to The Times of India, India is the most dangerous place in the world to be a baby girl. Newly released data shows that an Indian girl child aged 1-5 years is 75% more likely to die than an Indian boy, making this the worst gender differential in child mortality for any country in the world.  In India, girl babies face ‘pre-meditated’ murder under femicide.

Femicide was redefined as a feminist term by Diana Russell in 1976 to refer to misogynist murders. Just as murders targeting African Americans differentiate between those that are racist and those that are not, so are murders targeting women differentiated into those that are femicides and those that are not. When the gender of the victim is immaterial to the perpetrator, the murder qualifies as a non-femicidal crime.

After making minor changes in her definition over the years, Russell redefined femicide as “the killing of females by males because they are female”  Misogynist murders are the most obvious examples of femicide. These include mutilation murder, rape murder, woman battery that escalates into wife killing, the immolation of widows in India, and “honor crimes” in Latin and Middle Eastern countries, where women who are believed to have shamed their families by associating with an unrelated male, or even by being raped by a brother, are often murdered by their male relatives.

In India son preference is very common.  I read there is celebration when a woman has a boy but when she has a girl, it’s a completely different reaction.  I just read another heartbreaking story about a little girl named Karishma.  When she was born, her paternal grandmother was incensed, “A girl! I am going to put salt in her mouth and kill her!”  Apparently each rural region of India has its own age-old method of female infanticide. In the West there isdoodh-peeti (Drinking milk), where the baby is drowned in a bucket of milk.  In the East, as in Bengal, where Karishma is from, salt is put into the baby’s mouth and it’s closed for a minute. Karishma suffered physical abuse at the hands of her grandmother and she almost died from malnutrition.  Read about her story here.

What kind of society do we live in where a baby girl is bitten and battered and a father would throw his new born off a train within 12 hours of her birth and a grandmother would teach her grandson how to strangle his sister, promising him, “If you kill your sister, you will be even more loved by us”?   And why isn’t more being done to stop this?

I wrote a post a while ago on A Celebration of Women about the atrocities committed against helpless baby girls like Falak and I am sad to see that nothing has really changed.  India is still the most dangerous place for a girl and the mortality rate for girls is alarmingly high.  I am hoping that the death of Falak will galvanize people into taking action.  Someone has to stand up and say enough is enough!  Girl infants should be allowed to have a future because they matter.  Girls can be assets and blessings to their families.  The dowry system needs to be abolished because it is the main reason why girls are killed.  Criminal charges ought to be brought against any family member or members who commit femicide or abuse their girl children.

I would like human rights’ organization start a petition to end the crimes committed against girl infants and sent it to India’s President Pratibha Patil.  She needs to step in and do something.  I would like to see governments around the world take action.  I don’t want to see more babies end up like Falak.

Let us tell President Patil and anyone who would listen that girls matter and that they deserve a future.  Falak deserved a future.

Sources:  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2115877/Death-Falak-Indian-baby-handed-hospital-covered-HUMAN-BITE-MARKS.htmlhttp://womennewsnetwork.net/2012/02/07/india-girl-infants-murder-femicide/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Femicide

Elizabeth Smart

While I was at the hairdresser, I came across People Magazine with Elizabeth Smart’s wedding featured on the cover.  Elizabeth met her husband, Matthew Gilmour, a Scotland native while doing mission work in Paris.  After one year of courtship, the couple on February 18, 2012 in a private ceremony in the Laie Hawaii Temple.  I looked at her radiant face and was thrilled for her.  She had been through so much.  She deserved all the happiness she got after her horrific ordeal.

At the age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom on June 5, 2002.  She was found nine months later on March 12, 2003, in Sandy, Utah, 18 miles from her home, in the company of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. Her abduction and recovery were widely reported and were the subject of a made-for-TV movie and non-fiction book.

On October 1, 2009, Elizabeth relived those months of horror when she testified to being threatened, tied, and raped daily while she was held captive.  Her captor, Mitchell was sentenced to two life-terms in federal prison. 

What I admire about Elizabeth is that she didn’t let this rest at the trial.  She went on to take action–to make a difference.  She went from being a victim to being an activist.  On March 8, 2006, she went to Congress to support Sexual Predator Legislation and the AMBER Alert system, and on July 26, 2006, she spoke after the signing of the Adam Walsh Act. In May 2008, she traveled to Washington, D.C., where she helped present a book, You’re Not Alone, published by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has entries written by her as well as four other recovered young adults. In 2009, Smart commented on the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard, stressing that dwelling upon the past is unproductive. On October 27, 2009 Elizabeth spoke at the 2009 Women’s Conference in California hosted by Maria Shriver, on overcoming obstacles in life.  On July 7, 2011 it was announced that she would be a commentator for ABC News, mainly focusing on missing persons.

I learned about the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and the story behind its creation.

Too many families experience the nightmare of having a child go missing. I know what it is like to be that child. I know what it is like to think that one false move may lead to not only your own death but the death of family members as well. Nobody can ever blame a child for their actions when they are being threatened, bullied, forced, or coerced into doing something unthinkable. That is why the “Elizabeth Smart Foundation” was created, because what if we could prevent future crimes against children? Wouldn’t it be worth it to do everything to bring home that one child?

Elizabeth is a young woman of action.  She is working to prevent future crimes against children.  Her foundation’s mission is mission to end child victimization.  She doesn’t want families to go through what hers did.  And they were among the lucky ones.  The family of Samantha Runnion was not so lucky.  Samantha was kidnapped outside of her home and driven seventy miles away where she was sexually assaulted, beaten upside the head and asphyxiated.  In memory of this precious little girl, her mother Erin founded The Joyful Child Foundation.  I encourage you to visit their site and learn more about Samantha and what the work the organization is doing to help prevent another family from suffering like the Runnions.  As I read Samantha’s story, I pulled my child onto my lap and held him closely as tears filled my eyes.  We have to do everything possible to protect our children.  Don’t wait to talk to them about personal safety.  Erin Runnion offers these tips for parents.

In March 2011, Elizabeth was one of four women awarded the Diller-von Furstenberg Award.  The award included a $50,000 prize which she announced would be used to create her foundation.

Notes to Women salutes this remarkable young woman who has dedicated her life to preventing crimes from happening to children.

All of the children out there deserve to come home to their parents the way, the way Elizabeth has come back to us, … And I just hope and pray that Congress will quickly pass the Amber alert so those children will have a better chance.

I just had to ask about three times whether it was really true, … Then I just had to give thanks to God that she was found, that he has answered all the prayers.

Elizabeth Smart quotes

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart; http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20572162,00.html

http://elizabethsmartfoundation.org/

Pakistan’s Senate Passes Domestic Violence Bill

I read this evening on the website for Violence is Not Our Culture about the passing of domestic violence bill in Pakistan.  VNC congratulated their partners Baidarie Sialkot and Shirkat Gah and other civil society groups and women’s human rights activists who have been campaigning over the past few years to pass this bill.

Baidarie Sialkot is a non-government and non-profit organization which was established in 1993 by the rural women of UC Roras who were keen to work for the empowerment and development of the women of the area. It carries out its operations without having religious, lingual, political and social discriminations to motivate the rural communities, particularly women, to take an active part in the social developmental process. The organization strives hard to develop women into active, productive and dynamic citizens of the country.

Shirkat Gah literally means a place of participation. It was formed as a non hierarchical collective in 1975 by a group of women with a shared perspective on women’s rights and development.

The organizations’ fundamental goal was to encourage women to play a full and equal role in society by promoting and protecting the social and economic development of women already participating in, or wanting to participate in, the national development.

The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) bill makes violence against women and children an offence carrying jail terms and fines, state media said.  It was introduced by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar and passed unanimously by the upper house of the federal parliament, Pakistan Television reported.  It was passed unanimously in the National Assembly, the lower house in parliament almost three years ago in August 2009.  It will come into effect after it is signed into legislation by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Under this bill those found guilty of beating women or children will face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees ($1,100).  In addition to protecting children and women, it provides protection to the adopted, employed and domestic associates in a household.

The law classifies domestic violence as acts of physical, sexual or mental assault, force, criminal intimidation, harassment, hurt, confinement and deprivation of economic or financial resources.   In the past if a man beat her wife or children, the police could not arrest him because it was considered a domestic affair.  Now, thanks to the passing of this bill, the police can step in and make an arrest.

Human rights groups say that Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and so-called “honour” killings.  This means that a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family.  I read that in Afghanistan running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered “moral crimes”, for which women are currently imprisoned.  Rape victims are imprisoned because sex outside marriage, even when the woman is forced, is considered adultery, another “moral crime”.  I cannot believe that the woman who is abused by her husband is imprisoned.  I fail to see how rape can be classified as adultery which is consensual sex between two people outside of marriage.  Rape is not about sex.  It is a violent act.  And rape victims should be protected not treated like criminals.   It would be really great if Afghanistan were to pass a similar bill.

It is believed that the spread of Islamist fundamentalism is increasingly isolating the women in Pakistan, especially in the areas where the Taliban are.  Thankfully this bill will change things in the Pakistani women’s favor.  Men will no longer get away with their crimes.

It is truly a victory for Pakistan and especially the women and children whose rights are finally going to be protected.  This is a testimony that awareness + action = change.

Source:  http://abusehelplines.org/2012/02/21/pakistans-senate-unanimously-passes-domestic-violence-bill/