Empowering Women to Hold Up Half the Sky

28 08 2009

Her family in need of money, at age 14, Abbas Be left her home in Hyderabad, India and went to New Delhi to become a maid…or so she thought. Instead, she was locked up in a brothel, beaten, gang raped, made to service customers sexually, made to watch girls who didn’t comply be murdered, and was never paid for her work. Eventually she was rescued by police and taken back to Hyderabad, where she found a home in a shelter that helps trafficked girls heal and learn skills for a new life. Abbas is getting an education, has learned bookbinding, is counseling girls on how to avoid being trafficked, and is earning enough money to help her sisters get an education and help them avoid being trafficked.

How can we improve the plight of women and girls globally? One very important way is through education, as is demonstrated in this story and many others in the upcoming book Half the Sky BookHalf the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which will be released on 9/8/09. The book is written by the husband and wife team of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and journalist and author Sheryl WuDunn, who have both won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting. They wrote an essay called “The Women’s Crusade,” which is adapted from the book and appeared on 8/17/09 in the New York Times. Here are some of the things they report:

  • In 1990, while living and reporting in China, they read an obscure report that stated that 39,000 baby girls die in the first year of life annually in China because parents don’t get girls the same medical care they do boys.
  • A bride is burned once every two hours in India because the dowry isn’t high enough or the husband wants to get rid of her to marry someone else.
  • Anywhere from 60 to 107 million females are missing from the planet due primarily to not getting adequate nutrition and health care. This number is more than all the men who were killed in all the wars in the 20th century.
  • The poorest families in the world spend approximately 20% of their incomes on alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks, and lavish feasts and only about 2% of their income on educating their children. Studies show that when women are able to have an income, it is more often spent on good food, medicine, and housing and children are healthier.
  • In some cases, fathers drink away $5 a week at bars…$5 that could purchase a mosquito net and save a child from dying of malaria.

Sometimes even the simplest things can make a huge difference in the lives of girls. Examples mentioned in the article are:

  • A study done in Kenya by Harvard economist Michael Kremer showed that the best way to motivate sixth grade girls to better academic performance is to offer them a $19 scholarship for seventh and eighth grade and recognition at an assembly.
  • In another Kenyan study, it was shown that dropout and pregnancy rates can be significantly reduced by providing a $6 school uniform to girls every 18 months.
  • Another way to keep girls from missing classes is to aid girls in menstruation by providing pads and a place to change them.
Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

President Obama has appointed a new White House Council on Women and Girls. Nicholas and Sheryl have three concrete recommendations for the Council, which would cost no more than the U.S. has given to Pakistan since 9/11:

  • Set aside $10 billion over the next five years to educate girls all over the world.  When Larry Summers was chief economist of the World Bank, he said that “Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world.”
  • Sponsor a drive to help countries all over the world iodize salt and eliminate iodine deficiency. Approximately a third of households in developing countries don’t get enough iodine and it can affect particularly female fetuses and reduce girls’ IQs 10 to 15 points.
  • Provide $1.6 billion over the next 12 years to eradicate obstetric fistulas. A fistula is a hole formed inside a woman during a difficult childbirth and it can leave her smelly, incontinent, and shunned by her village. It only costs a few hundred dollars to repair.

There is a Chinese saying that inspired the title of the Kristof/WuDunn book:

Women hold up half the sky.

Sometimes women just need a little help. If you’d like to make a difference in the lives of women and children all over the world, here are just a few of the many organizations that would appreciate even a small donation:





Human Rights Activists on Twitter

8 04 2009

Here are some Human Rights activists I follow on Twitter. I am so twitterappreciative of the work they do and what I learn from them. You might want to check them out too if you’re a Twitter fan.

GENERAL

http://twitter.com/HumanRightsNews – News headlines on human rights

http://twitter.com/hrcberkeley – Human Rights Center UC Berkeley

http://twitter.com/susanneure – Web editor for Amnesty Intl in Canada

http://twitter.com/AmnestyIntl – Amnesty Intl

http://twitter.com/AmnestyUK – Amnesty Intl in UK

http://twitter.com/AmnestyOnline – International Secretariat of Amnesty International

http://twitter.com/phrTweets – Physicians for Human Rights

http://twitter.com/The_Advocates – The Advocates for Human Rights

http://twitter.com/ladu – human rights activist

http://twitter.com/rtsadvocate – human rights activist

HOMELESS/REFUGEES

http://twitter.com/MLFNOW – helping the homeless

http://twitter.com/wrcommission – Women’s Refugee Commission working to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee women and children.

http://twitter.com/theIRC – The International Rescue Committee goes to crisis zones to rescue and rebuild. We lead refugees from harm to home.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS

http://twitter.com/HumanFolly – editor of Change.org Women’s Rights blog

GENDER VIOLENCE

http://twitter.com/sinbysilence - documentary on stopping violence against women

http://twitter.com/FGFoundation – working to end gender violence

http://twitter.com/WRC_DOD – White Ribbon Campaign to end violence against women

CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

http://twitter.com/childrensrights – working to reform child welfare systems

TORTURE
http://twitter.com/notorture – healing torture survivors

http://twitter.com/IStandVsTorture – an umbrella campaign for a U.S. Commission to Investigate Torture

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

http://twitter.com/StopConflict – working to stop conflict in the Congo

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

http://twitter.com/AaronCohen777 – rescuing victims of child trafficking

http://twitter.com/TheA21Campaign – abolishing the injustice of human trafficking in the 21st century

 

http://twitter.com/VisionAbolition – dedicated to prevention, rescue, and restoration of sexually exploited and trafficked children

http://twitter.com/RichLeger – human trafficking activist with Abolish Slavery Coalition

http://twitter.com/slaverymap – online repository of human trafficking incidences

http://twitter.com/EBain – author of Season of Light blog on child trafficking

http://twitter.com/BuckUpCampaign – building shelters for sex trafficking victims by asking people to donate $1

http://twitter.com/endingslavery – writer of One Voice to End Slavery blog

http://twitter.com/FredDouglassSon – Frederick Douglas Family Foundation fighting modern day slavery

Here are additional abolitionists (people who fight slavery and human trafficking) from Diana Scimone:

@Freeallslaves
@freedomday
@IJMcampaigns
@IJMHQ
@ijminstitute
@innocentjustice
@Justicecrazy
@lovejustice
@nowhere2hide

@nosilencenow

@Polaris_Project

@advancnonprofit

@AmberGlattSmith

@antitrafficking

@BeverlyHogue
@brandedphx

@cfpdx
@charlestlee

@cortneyr
@dhepburn

@ElCuso12

@fisher_david

@just4one
@LaLaLives
@lwood15
@MaeSotShane

@maryhooke
@mathewhulbert
@MatthewBarnett

@mgjack

@missdeneen
@monicabrand

@mrskutcher
@NatalieGrant
@northernchick
@NYTimesKristof
@respres

@sethjohnson78

@ProjectExodus
@RedLightCC
@ROBLOVE146

@RunForFreedom
@socialheart
@thesoldproject

@Traffickfree
@trafficksucks

In addition to the above, this is a wonderful list from Emily at the Season of Light blog on ending child trafficking on people who twitter on human trafficking:

Individuals:

Diana Scimone, Born2Fly: @DianaScimone

Brandi, Social Heart Blog: @socialheart

Carol Fenton:@cfpdx

Greg Darley: @gregdarley

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times reporter: @nytimeskristof

Somaly Mam, The Somaly Mam Foundation: @somalymam

Seth Johnson, Transitions Global: @sethjohnson78

Stef, Nowhere2Hide: @nowhere2hide

Laura: @LaLaLives

Mae Potter: @maepotter

Amanda Kloer, Change.org blog: @endhumantraffic

Organizations

ECPATUSA: @ecpatUSA

FreeChains: @freechains

IJM: @IJMHQ

Not for Sale: @not_for_sale

Redlight Children: @redlightcc

SheDances: @shedances

The SOLD Project: @thesoldproject

Transitions Global: @transitions_g





A GPS Monitor Was No Protection for 13-year-old Licy Nipp

12 03 2009

She was beaten and stabbed to death by a homeless sex offender after she laughed at his failed attempt to rape her. He was a Level 3 sex offender – the category considered most likely to reoffend – and he was wearing a GPS monitor.

Alycia "Licy" Nipp

Alycia "Licy" Nipp

That device did not protect free-spirited 13-year-old Alycia “Licy” Nipp. Her body was found on February 22 in a field she was warned not to walk through in Vancouver, Oregon – 15 miles from Portland.

30-year-old Darrin Sanford may face the death penalty for what he did to Licy. He was convicted in 1998 after he offered to pay a group of 8 to 11 year-old children for oral sex and was given probation. He wore a passive GPS monitor (one that collects data on where he’s been and transmits it later) for the seven weeks since he was last let out of prison in January for one of his three parole violations.

All but six states make some use of GPS monitors for sex offenders. Although knowing where they are is good because it can help prevent convicted sex offenders from being near schools, experts say that the monitors provide a false sense of protection from the perpetrators.

The face of a child molester has changed from when my children were small. They were taught about “stranger danger.” Human Rights Watch reports that “In fact, the evidence shows that family members, friends or acquaintances are responsible for more than 90% of sexual abuse cases involving children.” HRW also says that first-time offenders are responsible for 87% of the cases of sexual abuse against children.

But these statistics did not protect Licy Nipp. Licy’s death is particularly difficult for her family, which has a history of experiencing sexual violence. Licy’s aunt Amber Hager had been raped twice as a teen and Licy’s grandmother had been raped as a child. They vowed to Licy that the cycle stopped with them and had coached Licy on how to be safe.

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers says that sexual offending can not be cured and that treatment has produced limited results in some people.

This is what makes dealing with sex offenders so difficult. What do you do with people who have urges to sexually assault children, have served their time in prison or on probation, and are rated likely to reoffend, as Darrin Sanford was?

Can we with a good conscience let such people…especially considering that Darrin had violated his parole three times…roam the streets with only a GPS monitor that doesn’t even report his location in real time? Is this the best we can do to protect our children?

UPDATE 6/10/09: Darrin Eugene Sanford pleaded guilty yesterday to first-degree aggravated murder. He is expected to receive a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.





Sierra Leone Females: Poor, Uneducated, Butchered

28 02 2009

Kidnapped by women, stripped naked, and paraded through the streets. This was the plight of four women journalists on February 7 in the city of Kenema in the African country of Sierra Leone. The reason? To punish them for reporting on female genital mutilation (FGM). The United Nations reports that 94% of women and girls in Sierra Leone ages 15 – 49 have experienced FGM, which is done to control their sexual urges, make them ready for marriage, and to make them an acceptable female member of society. Women cannot even hold office in Sierra Leone unless they have been cut.

Last year the Sierra Leone government said it would ban FGM, but it has done nothing about it. Patricia Kabbah, the late wife of previous President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, sponsored (paid for) the circumcisions of 15,000 girls in order to get votes for her husband. A decade ago, the woman who later became the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Women’s Affairs in Sierra Leone threatened to “sew up the mouths” of those who preach against FGM.

It is hard to imagine that women such as the journalists’ kidnappers, the ex-president’s wife, and a minster of women’s affairs would all advocate the barbaric practice of cutting off the clitoris (and sometimes also the labia) of girls. The practice is often done with a crude knife, razor blade, or even a piece of broken glass and can cause severe bleeding and infection, injure girls for life, make them incontinent, make them infertile, cause complications during pregnancy and childbirth, and can even cause death.

Rugiatu Turay Fights FGM - Credit: The Independent

Rugiatu Turay Fights FGM - Credit: The Independent

One brave woman in Sierra Leone who is working to stop this practice is 26-year-old Rugiatu Turay. Ms. Turay is a victim of FGM herself. The Independent online reports this about what happened to Ms. Turay when she was 12 years old:

Ms Turay was mutilated at her aunt’s house where she was staying with her three sisters and her cousin. “We didn’t even know that we were going to be initiated,” she says. “They called me to get water and then outside they just grabbed me.”

She was blindfolded, stripped, and laid on the ground. Heavy women sat on her arms, her chest, her legs. Her mouth was stuffed with a rag. Her clitoris was cut off with a crude knife. Despite profuse bleeding she was forced to walk, was beaten and had hot pepper water poured into her eyes.

“My mother had always told me never to let anyone touch me there. I was scared and I tried to fight them off. Nobody talked to me but there was all this clapping, singing, shouting,” recalls Ms Turay. “When I tried to walk on the seventh day I could not walk. All they could say is ‘Today you have become a woman’.”

For the past six years, Ms. Turay has waged a war with the 20 people on her staff against FGM through her organization Amazonian Initiative Movement. She became an activist after a cousin bled to death from FGM. She works to persuade the soweis, the women who do the cutting, to lay down their knives and stop practicing FGM. So far she has convinced 700 to over 1200 soweis (the numbers vary according to different reports) in 111 villages to stop the cutting and participating in the traditional bondo ceremony. Ms. Turay has received numerous death threats, been attacked, and has had magic used against her. Because she is still alive, the local people think she has special powers and they now leave her alone.

Katrina Manson, the journalist who wrote The Independent article, asked President Koroma of Sierra Leone, elected in 2007, his thoughts on FGM and he said “Let people in civil society deal with this issue.” That means that brave people such as Ms. Turay must fight against the 3 million new African girls being mutilated each year, adding to the 92 million already circumcized.

It is shocking that girls as young as FIVE years old are trained to be circumsisers. 35-year-old Marion Kanu, interviewed by Ms. Manson, gave her reasons for practicing it: “I didn’t like it when it happened to me and I worry about the pain of the girl, but I do it because they pay me, and because we met our ancestors doing it.” The woman’s two children also are circumcisers. In this poor country it is a way to make a living. The village elders have an incentive to keep the practice going also; they receive the equivalent of $25 for every circumcision rite.

Sierra Leone ranked last in the UN’s Human Development Index in 2007 and 2008. Life expectancy there is the lowest of any country in the world: 42 years old. Only 25% of women are literate; 37% of the entire population is literate. The country has the highest rate in the world of mothers dying during childbirth: 1,800 women for every 100,000 live births “…largely due to lack of human resources and corruption in the healthcare sector” according to the UN. 25% of children die before the age of five. Annual income is about $240.

This is a country where people are uneducated, live in extreme poverty, and are steeped in traditions and in corruption …all making it extremely difficult to stamp out female genital mutilation. According to the World Health Organization, the best way to begin to do this is literacy, education, and alternative forms of income for the soweis.

International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is sponsored by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) each February 6. If you want to help, you might consider going to Unicef.org and making a donation.

Additional information can be found at the Female Genital Cutting Education and Networking Project.





Kids in School: Getting an Education Plus a Beating

10 02 2009

Did you know that chewing gum in class could be enough to get a child beaten? I remember kids getting sent to the principal’s office to be spanked when I was in school in the 1960s and always felt sorry for them. Sometimes teachers would spank the child in the classroom in front of all the other children. I hated that. I saw that and experienced that at home and it still affects me.

Human Rights Watch put out a report in 2008 entitled “A Violent Education: Corporal Punishment of Children in US Public Schools.” I had no idea that this was still going on in schools and the more I read of this report, the more upset I got. Here are some things I pulled from the report:

  • 223,190 students nationwide were spanked in schools during the 2006-2007 school year at least once. Administrators admit the numbers are underreported and could be twice as many as reported.
    • 49,197 of those were in Texas – about 20%
    • In Mississippi during that period, 7.5% of students were paddled – the highest percent in the country.
  • 21 states permit corporal punishment in schools.
  • The Austin (where I live) school district does not permit corporal punishment.
  • 106 countries outlaw corporal punishment in schools; the U.S. is clearly out of touch.
  • Corporal punishment in schools has a disproportionate use against African-Americans, special education students, and boys.
Paddles Used on School Children

Paddles Used on School Children

For more information, check out The Center for Effective Discipline website. They have a long list of U.S. organizations that oppose corporal punishment in schools. There are also links to many articles and resources on the effects of corporal punishment, laws, what parents can do, and more.

So what is corporal punishment? Corporal punishment in schools usually involves a wooden paddle about 15 – 18 inches long being swung against the child’s buttocks 3 – 10 times; paddles are often even made by the students in woodworking shop. I’ve read that some paddles are as big as 27 inches and some have holes drilled in them to hurt children even more. For many teachers and principals who spank children in schools, the idea is clearly to inflict maximum damage.

Paddling can be done even for rather benign things like chewing gum, being late, sleeping in class, talking back to a teacher, violating the dress code, walking on the wrong side of the hall, not turning in homework, or going to the bathroom without permission. They even reported a 16-year-old 5-months pregnant girl being paddled for being tardy.
Principals who administer the paddling have done things like turn on the loudspeaker so every class could hear it being done and patrol the hallways with a paddle, ready to strike anywhere.

Hitting a child in the place he/she goes to get an education can have the following effects on the child:

Leads to environment of humiliation, violence, and degradation

Destroys trust between the student and the school

Often leads to real physical injury such as bleeding and deep bruising

Causes children to act out, become violent, become a bully, and even drop out of school

Human Rights Watch urged President Bush to ban corporal punishment in schools, but he never took any action. That doesn’t surprise me given President Bush’s authorization of torture.

President Obama is a compassionate, caring father and abhors torture and violence. Inflicting pain and injury to a child is a form of torture, is violent, and shouldn’t happen in homes or in schools. Children should be nurtured, not violated. Join me in calling on President Obama to outlaw corporal punishment in schools. Hitting a child is never the answer.

You can contact President Obama by going to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact.

UPDATE 9/27/09: The Los Angeles Times reported on 9/24/09 that spanking lowers a child’s IQ, study findings that were presented in San Diego at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma. Regular spanking creates chronic stress, leads to post-traumatic stress, and is this is thought to lower the child’s IQ. The more spanking done to the child, the more he experiences post-traumatic stress. The lead author of the study, University of New Hampshire professor Murray Straus says:

It is … time for the United States to begin making the advantages of not spanking a public health and child welfare focus, and eventually enact federal no-spanking legislation.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, many people have found this post because they entered words that indicated they like seeing spanked bare bottoms. I had included a small photo showing the effects of school spankings, but have deleted it. I did not write this post to titillate; quite the opposite. I hope it angers you and disgusts  you to the point of finding out if your school system allows paddling. If it does, I hope you will take action. I would never allow my children to be in a school that allowed spanking. I find it barbaric and to work against the kind of respectfulness and safety that is needed for children to be able to actually learn.

This post has gotten the attention of teachers who love to spank and many of them are reading my post. GOOD. Maybe your eyes will be opened to what you are advocating and doing.

What I said is now being called “unfair” on a forum where teachers debate the positive (and for a few, the negative) aspects of paddling. That is beyond hypocritical considering what these teachers are doing to children. It’s unfair to report the facts and how paddling children has NEGATIVE effects on the child? Do they expect us to say “Oh, that’s okay. Go ahead and beat our children, hurt them, and damage their self-esteem. No big deal.?????”

Why is it that beating or hitting an adult is called assault and is a felony offense and beating a child is called punishment and is okay? Our animals have more rights than children do. If we beat an animal the way we beat children in schools and at home, we would be arrested. I found this statement in an article on the www.nospank.org website:

In Texas, if somebody beats your dog with a wooden board for no reason, you’d sue and win. In addition to the civil action, the perpetrator would undoubtedly face criminal charges and be punished. But in Texas if somebody beats your child with a wooden board, and the perpetrator happens to be a schoolteacher, you’d better back off and keep your mouth shut. If you try to seek a remedy in the courts on behalf of your child, it is you, the parent, who will be punished. That’s the way it is in Texas. Family pets are cherished, but children… Well, they’re a different story.

Children have rights too. They are not just objects for adults to take out their aggression and frustration on.

Even on that forum, there are teachers who call corporal punishment in schools child abuse and talk of enormous paddles being used sadistically. I am not backing down on my stand. This is child abuse plain and simple and even on that forum, some teachers say many of those who practice paddling children do it because they enjoy it. Hitting children because you enjoy it? That is truly twisted.

A reader sent me additional information that adds to the shock of what is going on in schools. Some teachers are forced out of schools for not practicing paddling. A teacher was arrested for child pornography whose main interest was spanking. A little boy allegedly shot his father and the roommate because of his 1000th spanking at school. The reader also made the important point that there are children abused at home who may very well be the ones acting out in class, putting themselves at further risk of abuse from paddling teachers and school adminstrators. I even found a site that advises teenage children on how to approach your parents to ask them to spank you and how that will bring you closer together. The more I read on this topic, the more stunned I am.

I hope you’ll take the time to read the comments below. I went to the site mentioned by a reader. A photo from that site is pictured below. For those who think the damage done to a child from paddling is only temporary, I can speak from experience and tell you that the emotional damage done to a child from being beaten like this can last a lifetime.

High School Football Player Hit for Failing Grade while Those Who Watch Know They are Next

High School Football Player Hit for Failing Grade while Those Who Watch Know They are Next








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