Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers

An Opportunity to Help Out With Domestic Violence

A while back my sister introduced me to this really cool company called Sevenly. Basically what Sevenly does is design t-shirts. But these aren’t just any shirts. These are shirts that seek to raise awareness and funds for different charities around the world. Each week they produce a shirt for a charity. These shirts are only available for 7 days. And for every shirt sold, $7 goes to the charity.

I picked this week to bring Sevenly to your attention because these week’s shirt is bringing in proceeds for Sheltering Wings, which is an organization that helps women and children involved in domestic violence. So I thought that it tied into my purpose with this blog quite nicely.

You can watch their video below:

So far this week they’ve raised over $7,000 and it’s only Wednesday. If you want to help out, you can find them here. If you sign up for their e-mails, you’ll be notified what the new shirt is every week. They are doing really great things. A few weeks ago, they raised over $20,000 for Autism Speaks.

Disclosure: Sevenly did not ask me to write this post, I did it because I wanted to. I am affiliated with Sevenly as an ambassador, but that is a volunteer program that I signed up for because I think Sevenly is a great company and I want to help get the word out.

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The Women in Time’s Most Influential List 2011: Esther Duflo

Today is another name I don’t recognize, but I think in this series I actually find those the most fun because I get to learn about new people. So let’s dive in and take a look at Esther Duflo.

  • She’s an economist.
  • She teaches at MIT (Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics).
  • Her research looks at developing countries.
  • She has worked hard to advance using field experiments.
  • She is the director (and one of the founders) of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, which seeks to reduce poverty by having science to help inform policy.
  • She often focuses on the very specific and studies it in randomized trial experiments. Examples include “If schoolkids could get their uniforms for free, would attendance go up?” and “What’s an effective way to reward mothers for immunizing their babies?”
  • Speculation has it that she will win a Nobel Prize in the future.
  • She’s met with several big shots: Bill Gates, the head of Facebook, and the head of Amazon for example.

I think she is definitely influential. She is slowly changing the way we address poverty. It may not be widespread yet, but I think the work she is doing now will be in the future. This is really revolutionary work if we want to end poverty (which most people would say we do) because her work focuses on trying to find out what actually works. If we want to end poverty, her work is going to be crucial. Her influence will come in the future, as she is really making this a popular idea. It seems like such common sense – let’s test what actually makes a difference, but yet before her, it wasn’t really happening. I think that if we ever want to end poverty we need to pay attention to the work she is doing and we need to pay attention to how she is doing it. This is world changing stuff, mark my words. And it will have all started with Esther Duflo.

Sources:

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The Women in Time’s Most Influential List 2011: Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama. A pretty well known, household name right now I would say. Nevertheless, let’s take a look.

  • She is the current First Lady.
  • While she is involved in many causes, her best known one (in my opinion) has to do with eating healthy and ending childhood obesity (Let’s Move which “will give parents the support they need, provide healthier food in schools, help our kids to be more physically active, and make healthy, affordable food available in every part of our country.” – From the White House, link in the sources).
  • She also recently started an initiative for military families – big kudos there!

I have to say if I were First Lady, I don’t think all of the issues she worked on would be the same issues I would work on, but every First Lady sort of has their cause. We’re different people – and that’s okay. But nevertheless, her work has seen real results and I think that makes her influential because she’s not just saying “This is what we should do.” And then people ignore her. No – people have listened to her and made changes. Look at some of what Let’s Move has accomplished (taken from their website, link below):

  • Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act
  • “Three of the largest food service providers have committed to improving the food they provide to schools.”
  • Working on putting more than 5,000 salad bars in schools
  • Chefs Move to Schools
  • Working to ensure more playgrounds and Safe Routes to School
  • Let’s Move Cities and Towns

And that’s just part of it – so you can definitely see that this initiative she is leading is being highly influential in this country in her own way.

Sources:

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The Women in Time’s Most Influential List 2011: Aung San Suu Kyi

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! Let’s take a look at Aung San Suu Kyi.

  • Non-violent activist in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) working for peace and democracy.
  • She has been under house arrest in the past for over 10 years (sources differ between 14 and 15 years) though she is now free.
  • She was the legitimately elected leader, but unable to lead due to the house arrest issue (and because the government in power just didn’t like her).
  • Her and her party are getting ready to run again, despite the bad outcomes for her on the last time she ran.
  • She holds a Nobel Peace Prize.

I want to add this video too since I think it does a pretty good job explaining a lot of the background to her:

I’m not going to lie when I say I think she’s influential, because I truly think she is, but I should admit upfront my bias. She has been my political hero for a long time for her unrelenting perseverance in the face of a very oppressive government. But apart from that, if not for her work and the people working with her, Myanmar/Burma would have very little chance of ever seeing freedom because it is hard and scary to stand up to a military junta and they’re not likely to just say “Oh you’re being oppressed? Sorry about that, here’s your freedom back.” Later on at some point, I will probably do a more in depth piece on her because I think she is such an important and influential figure.

I know I haven’t been including videos with this series, but I will today because I think it’s worth listening to her explain why non-violence is so important.

Sources:

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Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Do you know what Female Genital Mutilation is? I’m about to tell you and I’m going to tell you right up front, it will probably be graphic and not for the faint of heart, but I think it is very necessary to know what this is all about.

First it’s important that know that you may have heard of it before – it goes by a lot of names. Female Genital Mutilation, Female Genital Cutting, Female Genital Circumcision, Female Genital Alteration, Female Genital Excision, and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting to name a few. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to it as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The controversy over what to call it stems from the fact that people who practice FGM feel that mutilation is too strong of a word, but the people against FGM feel that it is mutilation and it brings attention to that. Some prefer circumcision, but many people this is drawing an unfair comparison between this and male circumcision (which I will admit will probably never be talked about on my blog and I am not very knowledgable about it, but it’s done – at the very least – for very different reasons. I feel it is outside of the scope of my blog, but for your awareness, there are people who feel that because there is such an outcry against FGM that there should be equal amounts of outcry against male circumcision). The World Health Organization (WHO) defines this as, “”all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” There are four different types. Warning Graphic descriptions.  “Type 1, excision of the clitoral hood, the skin around the clitoris, with or without partial or complete removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy); Type 2, excision of the clitoris with partial or complete removal of the labia minora; Type 3 (infibulation), excision of all or part of the labia minora and labia majora, and the stitching of a seal across the vagina, leaving only a small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual blood; and Type 4, miscellaneous acts, including burning or cauterization of the clitoris, scraping and cutting of the vagina (gishiri cutting [where it is cut to make it larger]), and introducing corrosive substances into the vagina to tighten it.” (From Wikipedia)

To me, while they are all horrible, I think type three is definitely the most harmful and painful so I’m going to talk a little more about that one. In this one, sometimes the girl’s legs are even tied together for 2 to 6 weeks so that she can’t move and to basically allow the two cut sides to seal together. These two sides are usually stitched or glued together with things like thorns as stitches or eggs, sugar, and animal waste as a glue. Not only that, but this one is often cut open repeatedly as it is needed, either when she gets married so she can have sex or when she gives birth to children so that there is room for the baby to be born and it is sometimes sealed up again afterwards. Where people have this, the women speak of three feminine sorrows: “the first sorrow is the procedure itself, followed by the wedding night when a woman with Type III FGM has to be cut open, then childbirth when she may have to be cut again.” Type three carries the most risk of complications, which I’ll talk about further down.

“There were two circumcisers – they moved quickly from one girl to the next, cutting their labia. It was horrendous. And none of the girls cried out, because they’d had it drilled into them that they had to bear it without making a sound.” – Cath Holland

It can happen in hospitals under general anesthesia or it can happen by people referred to as “traditional circumcisers” typically with little to no anesthesia using unsterilized things (not even worth calling instruments) like broken glass, tin lids, razor blades, knives, and scissors to name a few examples. It can happen to girls all the way from infants to 15 years old or sometimes women right before they married or give birth to their first child. It happens in 28 countries and also in some immigrant groups in places like America and Europe (though until the 1950s, it was practiced in England and America to “cure” women of “female deviances”). It happens to singular girls and it happens to groups of girls at the same time. There are reports of girls being held down and struggling against the people holding them down so much that their bones are broken. The estimations of women who have been subject to this around the world range from 60 million to 140 million women. (Estimates work this out to about 4 girls a minute). An estimated three million more girls every year face the potential that this will happen to them.

“These families do not do this out of spite or hatred; they believe this will give their daughters the best opportunities in life. We would like a conviction, not against the parents, but against a cutter, someone who makes a living from this.” – Jackie Mathers

Why is this so bad? Besides the obvious, FGM has a lot of risky side effects: often times a lot of pain, shock, hemorrhaging (severe bleeding, sometimes enough that the girls die), infections (including tetanus and UTIs), urine retention (where you can’t pee), ulceration, fever, and septicemia. Long term you can face things like chronic pain, recurring infections, recurring cysts, difficulty giving birth, more likely to have a C-section, anemia, keloid scars (I do not know how to explain this – check the Wikipedia article on it if you’re interested), urinary incontinence, pain having sex, sexual dysfunction, menstrual disorders, fistulae (again, Wikipedia article), infertility, increased risk of HIV infection (though the jury is out on this – there are mixed results), chronic anxiety, depression, other psychiatric problems, kidney stones, other kidney problems, failure to heal, increased risk of hepatitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, bladder stones, increased chance of episiotomy in labor, increased chance of extended hospital stays with labor, psychological effects that are similar to PTSD, Dysmenorrhoea (extremely painful periods), pelvic and back pain, the need for more “surgeries” later, and increased newborn death. The rates on the birth statistics for example are so shockingly high it’s clear to see this has very little benefit. For example, with Type III (which carries the most risks, but certainly not all – the others do too), the infant mortality rate is 55% high and the mother is 70% more likely to suffer dangerous hemorrhaging. I think if we focused on eliminating FGM, we could make huge strides in infant and maternal mortality. FGM is a huge factor in maternal/infant mortality in the areas where it is practiced. This is a real solution to help end the problem.

“Why would anyone want to go and cut up a seven- or eight-year-old child? People need to wake up — you are hurting your child, you are hurting your daughter, you’re not going to have a grandchild, so wake up.” – Miriam, a victim of FGM

Then the question is to ask why? Why would something like this be done? It seems so awful, so unbearable. There are many reasons. Some people think it is just part of how parents raise their child “right.” The women are often seen as “cleaner” after the procedure. It is said to “ensure” that women remain virgins before marriage and during marriage don’t have affairs and is also supposed to help if a much older man marries a younger woman so that she doesn’t have a higher sex drive than him. It is also believed to lower women’s libido (which goes back to making sure that women remain virgins before marriage and don’t have affairs during marriage). Sometimes, they even try to sell it as rape protection (though this is twisted – here, let’s cut you up so that no man tries to rape you). Sometimes the labia and clitoris are viewed as parts of a man, so taking these away makes someone more feminine. Tied up with that is the belief in some places that if a man or a baby touches the clitoris they will die and/or it will make the woman’s breast milk poisonous. Sometimes they think this procedure makes a woman fertile (even though the exact opposite is true) or that it will take away bad odors or that it will prevent vaginal cancer (all fictitious “health” benefits). It is also sometimes believed that if the clitoris isn’t cut off, it will grow so big that it drags on the ground (again, another falsity). Some places think it keeps a woman’s face from turning yellow or makes it more beautiful. It is often viewed as a right of passage – something that turns a girl into a woman and women who are never mutilated are often seen perpetually as a child in their society. In fact, there is a story from Kenya of a woman who chose not to have FGM done to her and then later on when she decided to run office, the people running against her used this as something to attack about her. Often, it is not men pushing and promoting this like one would think, but older women or women themselves wanting it, being taught these things about how it is good for you. Though, the men play into this as well as they will often times not marry a girl unless she has had this done to her. Both men and women play into the idea that it is for the family’s honor and reputation. And even if the parents decide not to have this for their daughters, they still have to be wary of their relatives who believe in FGM, who may kidnap the children and forcibly perform this. There is a lot of back and forth over whether or not it is a cultural practice or if it is a religious practice. I don’t have the answer but I think the answer is that it can be both – it is a cultural practice in some places and some religions include it in their practices in other places. Some Muslims practice it, but they aren’t the only religious group to practice it and not all Muslims do (there is a lot of people who I think associate FGM with Islam, but it definitely should not be the case since many don’t and many communities practice it without religious associations and there have been Christian and Animist groups that practice it as well). In fact, it is believed that FGM was happening before Islam even existed and a lot of Muslims argue that there is no grounds for FGM in Islam.

“Human rights transcend cultural relativism by definition, but the cultural-religious argument has to be taken into consideration for implementation of policy.” – Stephan Isaacs

It’s not hopeless – people are really trying to bring an end to this. February  6th every year is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation. I think also it goes to having a cultural change. I think that those people need to be taught that women can control themselves sexually and just be abstinent before marriage and then during marriage be faithful without someone needing to mutilate them. There is also evidence that this change will come from NGOs helping communities make these cultural changes more than laws, since in many countries, laws by overarching bodies seem to be resisted or not enforced. Indeed, many countries where FGM is practiced has laws making it illegal. Some Western countries help further by granting asylum to women who will have to go through forced FGM (though of course, they must be able to prove this). It is clear that the laws are doing very little, so the change needs to come from other places and there are many NGO’s actively working on it. Holding community meetings is another strategy that is being tried.  Educating people about the harmful effects is also being tried (and what I like about this is they often have respected women already in the community teaching younger women and girls about it – a much more sustainable and viable solution in my opinion). They also are trying to introduce alternative rights of passage and have had some success with replacing FGM with a separate right of passage ceremony. I believe, as do many people, that a harm-elimination strategy is best, as opposed to a harm-reducation strategy (one example would be moving it so it happens in hospitals so it’s “safer” – making the harm less, but not at all reducing it). That means completely eliminating the danger of FGM that women and girls face, not just making it less. Surgeons have also recently developed reversal techniques for this procedure. Of course, it’s not going to be completely like it was, but something is better than nothing for the women who have already gone through this.

This is another youtube video but embedding has been disabled. It is very graphic in nature and there is some nudity, but it does speak to two women who were mutilated at a young age.

Further Reading (Note, I haven’t read them, just found them):

Sources:

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Starting Giving Young: One 11 Year Old Girl

Giving is something that I believe strongly in. And for Olivia Bouler, that sense of giving started early. At 11 years old, after hearing about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (remember that?), she wanted to do something. She took the initiative to write to the National Audubon Society asking if she could sell her bird paintings to help. They took her up on this and sent off her work to all the people who supported their clean up efforts. She drew pictures of a wide variety of birds, some native to the area where the oil spill happened and some other birds as well. At the time of the writing of the article that I found, she had already done 150 drawings and was set to do up to 500. These drawings helped to raise over $200,000. Olivia was named Hometown Hero and ASPCA’s 2010 Kid of the Year.

This cute duck is one of them!

 “I hope that the Gulf will be as beautiful as it was before the spill, and I hope that people will come together to make it that way.”

If you’d like to benefit the National Audubon Society, you can buy a book of Olivia’s drawings, Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf.

Source: Talented 11-Year-Old Paints Birds, Raises Over $200,000 For Gulf Coast Relief Efforts : TreeHugger 

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Women in History: Jane Addams

She

  • founded the Hull House, which was the first (and best known) settlement house in the US.
  • was a sociologist.
  • was a philosopher.
  • was an author.
  • was a suffragist and a pacifist.
  • was the first woman from America (second woman overall) to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • traveled to Europe.
  • was a Christian.
  • helped start the Progressive Party.
  • was the first vice-president for the Playground Association of America.
  • was a charter member (and the most well-known woman member at the time) of the American Sociological Society.
  • was the national chairman of the Woman’s Peace Party.
  • was president of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (after serving, she would remain honorary president for her whole life).
  • worked for labor reform.
  • was a charter member for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
  • was vice-president for the National American Women Suffrage Association.
  • helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
  • served on Chicago’s Board of Education and within that chaired the School Management Committee.
  • helped found the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy.
  • was the first woman president of the National Conference of Charities and Corrections.
  • was the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Yale.
  • read every book in her village library.
  • helped to form courts for juveniles.
  • was pro-life!
  • helped found the National Child Labor Committee.


Others said

  • “Miss Addams shines, so respectful of everyone’s views, so eager to understand and sympathize, so patient of anarchy and even ego, yet always there, strong, wise and in the lead. No ‘managing’, no keeping dark and bringing things subtly to pass, just a radiating wisdom and power of judgement.” – Emily Balch
  • “Jane Addams has been able to do more probably than any other living woman to popularize pacifism and to introduce radicalism into colleges, settlements, and respectable circles. The influence of her radical proteges, who consider Hull House their home center, reaches out all over the world.” – Elizabeth Dilling (and actually meant to be a criticism)
  • “Jane Addams is a woman of indomitable energy and persistence, of enthusiasm and adaptability; intellectually she is strong and possesses a keen sense of a humour. She is a slender, delicate, pink-cheeked woman with a face as fine as a cameo and a manner unassuming and attractive.” The Indianapolis Journal
  • “Miss Addams has been called “the greatest woman in the world,” the “mother of social service,” “the greatest woman internationalist” and the ‘first citizen of Chicago.'” – The New York Times
  • “In honoring Miss Addams we also pay homage to the work which women can do for the cause of peace and fraternity among nations. Miss Addams does not speak much, but her quiet, kind-hearted personality creates an atmosphere of good-will, which instinctively calls forth the best in all.” – Halfdan Kort
  • “I do not base her greatness on Hull House, important as that contribution is. Far more remarkable is the human trait of sticking to that project all her life. She made it a success. She stuck through when it was a success. That is a rare thing to do–to stick to a success.” – Carrie Chapman Catt

She said

  • “I am not one of those who believe – broadly speaking – that women are better than men. We have not wrecked railroads, nor corrupted legislatures, nor done many unholy things that men have done; but then we must remember that we have not had the chance.”
  • “It is good for a social worker to be an artist too.”
  • “We have all accepted bread from someone, at least until we were fourteen.”
  • “Talk of reprisal and aggression can only increase the spirit of bitterness.”

“As women we are the custodians of the life of the ages and we will no longer consent to its reckless destruction. We are particularly charged with the future of childhood, the care of the helpless and the unfortunate, and we will no longer endure without protest that added burden of maimed and invalid men and poverty-stricken women and orphans which war places on us.”

“Hundreds of poor laboring men and women are being thrown into jails and police stations because of their political beliefs. In fact, an attempt is being made to deport an entire political party.

These men and women, who in some respects are more American in ideals than the agents of the government who are tracking them down, are thrust into cells so crowded they cannot lie down.

And what is it these radicals seek? It is the right of free speech and free thought; nothing more than is guaranteed to them under the Constitution of the United States, but repudiated because of the war.

It is a dangerous situation we face at the present time, with the rule of the few overcoming the voice of the many. It is doubly dangerous because we are trying to suppress something upon which our very country was founded – liberty.

The cure for the spirit of unrest in this country is conciliation and education – not hysteria. Free speech is the greatest safety valve of our United States. Let us give these people a chance to explain their beliefs and desires. Let us end this suppression and spirit of intolerance which is making of America another autocracy.”

Awards

  • Nobel Peace Prize
  • Honorary Degree from Yale
  • Took second in a poll by Independent (a magazine) titled “Who Was the Most Useful American”
  • M. Carey Thomas Prize

Books (Note, I haven’t read these, I just found them)

There is the Jane Addams Hull House Association.

There is the Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards.

There is the Jane Addams Hull-House  Museum.

There is the Jane Addams College of Social Work.

There is the Jane Addams Resource Corporation.

There is the Jane Addams Senior Caucus.

There is the Jane Addams Book Shop.

There is the Jane Addams School for Democracy.

There is the Jane Addams Recreation Trail.

There is a Jane Addams Memorial Park.

There are also elementary, middle, and high schools named after her.

Sources:

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Women in History: Fannie Lou Hamer

She

  • lived from 1917-1977.
  • was the youngest of 20.
  • was a Christian.
  • was pro-life! She considered abortion to be “legal murder.”
  • was a voting and civil rights activist.
  • played a huge role in organizing Mississippi Freedom Summer.
  • was Vice-Chair for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
  • went to the National Democratic Convention to challenge the delegation from Mississippi.
  • was married.
  • was forcibly sterilized because she was a black woman. She was never told and never asked.
  • adopted two children with her husband.
  • after hearing Rev. James Bevel’s appeal that they should register to vote, she volunteered first despite knowing that a black woman registering to vote in the South could have horrible consequences.
  • was known for singing Christian hymns to the group of people she was with in order to keep morale high.
  • was sought out by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) because of her reputation.
  • was arrested for not complying with a whites only restaurant policy.
  • was beaten so badly in jail she almost died and she became permanently disabled.
  • lost her job as a sharecropper for her activism.
  • had death threats all the time.
  • was shot at.
  • continued despite these hardships.
  • ran for Congress twice.
  • criticized the Vietnam war.
  • has had compositions about her and in her honor composed.
  • was eventually able to register to vote and then helped others learn to pass the test that was an obstacle for voting.
  • sued the county for school desegregation.
  • helped start a Head Start program in her community.
  • helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus.
  • worked as the SNCC Field Secretary.
  • helped form the Freedom Farms.
  • helped start a Pig Bank, a way of providing poor families with piglets.
  • testified in court on behalf of black, single mothers and helped them win rights to employment.

Others have said

  • “None of us would be where we are now had she not been there then.” – Andrew Young

“Mrs. Hamer always spoke from the heart. When she spoke at Atlantic City in front of the national TV, she spoke the same way, what you felt when she spoke and when she sang was someone who was opening up her soul and really telling you what she felt.  I think one of the most beautiful things about the movement in Mississippi was that it enabled a person like Mrs. Hamer to emerge.” – Bob Moses

She said

  • “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared – but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they [white people] could do was kill me, and it seemed they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”
  • “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
  • “We didn’t come all the way up here to compromise for no more than we’d gotten here. We didn’t come all this way for no two seats, ’cause all of us is tired.”
  • “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”
  • ”Sometimes it seem like to tell the truth today is to run the risk of being killed.  But if I fall, I’ll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom.  I’m not backing off.”
  • “A white mother is no different from a black mother. The only thing is they haven’t had as many problems. But we cry the same tears.”
  • “With the people, for the people, by the people. I crack up when I hear it; I say, with the handful, for the handful, by the handful ’cause that’s what really happens.”
  • “Christ was a revolutionary person. That’s what God is all about, and that’s where I get my strength.”
  • “Christianity is being concerned about your fellow man, not building a million-dollar church while people are starving right around the corner.”
  • “We have to make it work. Ain’t nothing going to be handed to you on a silver platter, nothing. That’s not just black people, that’s people in general, masses. See, I’m with the masses…. You’ve got to fight. Every step of the way, you’ve got to fight.”
  • “I’m not going to try that thing. I got a black husband, six-feet-three, 240 pounds, with a 14 shoe, that I don’t want to be liberated from. But we are here to work side by side with this black man in trying to bring liberation to all people.”
  • “We still love these children. And after these babies are born we are not going to disband these children from our families … . I think these children have a right to live. And I think that these mothers have a right to support them in a decent way … . We are dealing with human beings.”
  • “No. What would I look like fighting for equality with the white man?  I don’t want to go down that low.  I want the true democracy that’ll raise me and that white man up… raise America up.”
  • “There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people.”

“All of this is on account we want to register [sic], to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings – in America?”

“Do you mean to tell me that your position is more important than four hundred thousand black people’s lives? Senator Humphrey, I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County, Mississippi. Now if you lose this job of Vice-President because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take [the nomination] this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about. Senator Humphrey, I’m going to pray to Jesus for you.”

“We have to realize just how grave the problem is in the United States today, and I think the sixth chapter of Ephesians, the eleventh and twelfth verses help us to know…what it is we are up against. It says, ‘Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ This is what I think about when I think of my own work in the fight for freedom.”

Books about her (Note, I haven’t read any of these, these are just some of the books I’ve found):

There is also the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy. (Note, I found two websites for it, so I’m not sure which is the real one/which is the most current.)

There is also a Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee.

There is also a Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation, as Fannie did die of Breast Cancer.

Also, the Fannie Lou Hamer Statue Drive exists to try and get a full size statue of her in her hometown.

Sources:

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Shirin Ebadi

She

  • was born in Iran
  • used to be a judge and an attorney there.
  • works to better the lives of children and women in the Middle East.
  • has been imprisoned and tortured.
  • doesn’t let any of this stop her from doing what’s right.
  • was the 11th woman and the first person from Iran and the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • did not have her acceptance speech broadcast in Iran (supposedly for not wearing a headscarf, but I think most people can figure out the real reason).
  • had her Nobel Peace Prize stolen by the government.
  • lives in exile.
  • was the first woman judge in Iran. (And then was removed, as women judges were later banned.)
  • established the Society for Protecting the Rights of the Child, which promotes the principles in the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • established the Defenders of Human Rights Center, which provides defense for people accused of political crimes, educates Iranians about human rights, and reports on the condition of human rights in Iran, despite constant struggles against the Iranian government.
  • has been critical of the US government.
  • is a wife.
  • is a mother to two daughters.
  • evaded at least two attempts on her life.
  • has written books.
  • helped draft a law against child abuse that was later passed.
  • helped found the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
  • started the Million Signatures Campaign to end legal discrimination against women in Iran.

Others have said

  • “As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran, and far beyond its borders. She has stood up as a sound professional, a courageous person, and has never heeded the threats to her own safety.” – Nobel Peace Prize Committee
  • “Both in her research and as an activist, she is known for promoting peaceful, democratic solutions to serious problems in society. She takes an active part in the public debate and is well-known and admired by the general public in her country for her defence in court of victims of the conservative faction’s attack on freedom of speech and political freedom.” -Nobel Committee Profile
  • “the worst nightmare of Iran’s hardline clerics” (From an Article in The Guardian)

She said

  • They should ask for their rights, but they should do it peacefully. Obviously the regime wants people to be violent because it gives them an excuse to crack down. People must not give them that excuse.”
  • “A human being divested of all dignity, a human being deprived of human rights, a human being gripped by starvation, a human being beaten by famine, war and illness, a humiliated human being and a plundered human being is not in any position or state to recover the rights he or she has lost.”
  • “The worst solution is a military attack. Democracy is not merchandise to be exported to a country, democracy cannot be purchased and sent to another country.”
  • “The best thing that a student can do is study well — and then go back to Iran.”
  • “Any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear from birth to death, but I have learned to overcome my fear.”
  • “I compare my situation to a person on board a ship. When there is a shipwreck the passenger then falls in the ocean and has no choice but to keep swimming. What happened in our society was that the laws overturned every right that women had. I had no choice. I could not get tired, I could not lose hope. I cannot afford to do that.”
  • “Democracy is like a flower. You must water it daily and check the light if you want to keep it alive. You can’t pour a bucket of water in your flower pot and go back to it a month later.”
  • “If no one speaks out when a government violates human rights and uses oppression, this oppression continues. But when people are informed, they gradually become aware, and when they become aware, they begin to object. No change happens in society unless people become aware.”
  • “That’s when I felt that human rights were being neglected. … Undemocratic countries are more dangerous than a nuclear bomb. It’s undemocratic countries that jeopardise international peace.”
  • “I maintain that nothing useful and lasting can emerge from violence.”
  • “When there is injustice to one people and there is no way of receiving justice and when several generations live under the poverty line and there is no hope for the improvement of their lives, they may forget their sanity because of hopelessness. And thus they may resort to violence.”

“Undoubtedly, my selection will be an inspiration to the masses of women who are striving to realize their rights, not only in Iran but throughout the region – rights taken away from them through the passage of history. This selection will make women in Iran, and much further afield, believe in themselves. Women constitute half of the population of every country. To disregard women and bar them from active participation in political, social, economic and cultural life would in fact be tantamount to depriving the entire population of every society of half its capability. The patriarchal culture and the discrimination against women, particularly in the Islamic countries, cannot continue for ever.”

“Whenever women protest and ask for their rights, they are silenced with the argument that the laws are justified under Islam. It is an unfounded argument. It is not Islam at fault, but rather the patriarchal culture that uses its own interpretations to justify whatever it wants. It utilizes psychology to say that women are emotional. It utilizes medical science to say that men’s brains are formed in such a way that they are better able to understand concepts. These are all hypotheses. None of this has been proven. Needless to say, the dominant culture is going to insist on an interpretation of religion that happens to favor men. Before the revolution, there were the first 100 female judges in Iran. I was one of them. After the 1979 revolution, they argued that women cannot be judges, and they made us all into peons in the ministry of justice. But women resisted. We wrote essays, held protests, and organized conferences to insist that women being judges was not incompatible with Islam. After twenty years, they finally accepted the argument and said, OK, women can be judges. So, as you can see, one day they interpret Islam in such a way that women cannot be judges and the next day they manage to reverse themselves.”

“How can you defy fear? Fear is a human instinct, just like hunger. Whether you like it or not, you become hungry. Similarly with fear. But I have learned to train myself to live with this fear. Every time I am fearful I think to myself, the reason they do this is to discourage me from doing what I do. Hence, if I discontinue my work I will have succumbed to my fears.”

“In my memoir, I wanted to introduce American women to Iranian women and our lives. I’m not from the highest echelons of society, nor the lowest. I’m a women who is a lawyer, who is a professor at a university, who won the Nobel Peace Prize. At the same time, I cook. And even when I’m about to go to prison, one of the first things I do is to make enough food and put it in the fridge for my family.”

Awards

  • 2003 Nobel Peace Prize
  • Rafto prize
  • Voted 12th leading public intellectual in 2005
  • Women’s eNews 21 Leaders for the 21st Century Award
  • International Democracy Award
  • UCI Citizen Peacebuilding Award

Books about her (Note, I haven’t read any of these, these are just some of the books I’ve found):

I think that anyone who is willing to stand up for the rights of women and children in the face of such an oppressive regime should be hailed someone to look up to. It takes a lot of courage and bravery to stand up in a place like Iran, where you will face possible imprisonment and even potentially death.

Sources:

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A Look At Catherine Ferguson Academy

When I heard about Catherine Ferguson Academy (CFA), it really peaked my interest. I feel that this school meets a lot of needs all rolled into one.

 “We want our girls to know that becoming a mother in your teens does not mean you are doomed to a dead end life.” – Ms. Andrews

This (former public) school meets a critical need as it is an all-female school for pregnant teenagers or teenagers with children. It has also been teaching these girls to farm and market their produce, helping their struggling community (the school is located in Detroit, one of the areas that was hit the hardest by the recession). They have a small organic plot that includes fruit trees, some farm animals, and beehives.  90 percent of their girls graduate from high school and it is required that they enroll in college to gradaute, which is pretty remarkable when you considering that, according to my sources, 90 percent of pregnant girls and girls with children drop out of school and only half will have their high school degree by 22. It flips those numbers clear upside down. It teaches them all of the regular high school subjects but also teaches them about parenting and other life skills to make them independent and productive when they enter the adult world. They also partner with other agencies and groups to ensure that girls get not just an education, but the support they need (like counseling for example). Above and beyond that, they expect something of these girls, which is a very different message than society at large usually sends to them. Additionally, it has won the Breakthrough High School Award.

“Your life isn’t over because you are pregnant. There is still school for you….One of the requirements for graduation at Catherine Ferguson is you must get accepted to a college. Principal Andrews and her staff will hunt down a college for you to go to, and money for you to go there if you graduate.” – Rachel Maddow (video below)

However, the school has faced some troubles. It was supposed to close this summer because Detroit is trying to reduce it’s spending. It makes sense on the one hand, because they were hit badly by the recession since the automobile industries are there, but on the other hand, why close an award winning school that meets such a critical need? Not only that, but Detroit itself has an illiteracy rate that it almost 50 percent. Closing this school made sense to very little people. The students were very upset by this (which shows, in another way, how big of an impact this closing was having on them) and actually held a sit-in at their school building, to which the police were sent to arrest these girls and a teacher. May I remind you that most of these protestors were pregnant girls or girls with small children? And the police felt so threatened they arrested them! There are a few sources that I found that suggests that the officers also treated them inappropriately, with excessive force and harassment.

“The attitude of the teachers was really plain. It was we can find a job somewhere else, but these young women, they can’t replace this school. If we don’t stand and fight with them for their futures, then they don’t stand a chance.”  – Shanta Driver from By Any Means Necessary

It got so much news media and support from the community that it will be remaining open as a charter school. While not publicly owned anymore, they still will not turn anyone away. They’re working right now to reach what they count to be 5,000 unreached teen mothers in their county and their willing to open more schools to do so. They’ve also recently partnered with another organization to start designing and building homes – another learning opportunity for these girls.

“Our principal tells us ‘smart mothers make smart children.’”

“When people at my regular high school realized that I was pregnant, I was told my chances of being a success in life were over. At Catherine Ferguson, they told me they wouldn’t allow me to be anything but a success. I love CFA and I am prepared to fight to keep it open, not only for myself, but for all the girls who will come behind me.”

– Ashley Matthews

I think this is so important because having a kid is not the end of your life and it doesn’t have to be the end of your education. That 90 percent of pregnant girls and girls with children drop out of school? We are failing those girls by not giving them a way to continue their education. Schools like this help to give those pregnant teenagers that education and through that education, help to empower them. That education and empowerment helps people to rise above the poverty they face. I personally think if there were more options like this  available to girls that abortion wouldn’t be so prevalent. Pregnant teenagers need support, like ways to continue their education, not abortion. And the demand for these schools is there, I believe, and they would be greatly appreciated. As it stands, there are only four such schools in the nation like this.

I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s also featured in the Grown in Detroit documentary, if you want to check that out.

Sources Not Already Linked:

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