Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers

10 Things for Tuesday – 9/4/12

Okay, so one thing that I do is that I love to share other people’s articles and content. Why? Because there are a lot of great things out there. So periodically, I’ll do what I’m doing today, which is leave you a list of things I recommend reading (or watching). Just a few notes because I’m just going to leave the links and not add any of my extra commentary (for the most part), leaving a link here does not mean I agree with everything on the site – I just think the particular link is interesting whether or not I agree with it. If you want to discuss any one in particular, leave a comment and I’ll happily discuss it with you and what I think about it.

1. Thank God for the Taco

2. Teach Your ‘Water Baby’ to Swim

3. Teach Your Kids to do Their Own Laundry

4. 10 ways to raise kids who love to read

5. Should Getting Married Before 25 Be Illegal? 

6. Stay Married . . . Get Happy (Part 1)

7. God uses goofy people too!!

8. 10 Wonderful Short Films Based on Famous Short Stories (If you only have time to watch one of these, make it the “Harrison Bergeron” one)

9. Nice Girl’s Don’t Ask

10. 13+ Things a Burglar Won’t Tell You

Happy reading (and watching)!

Melissa

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The Women in Time’s Most Influential List 2011: Maria Bashir

Again, Maria Bashir is not a name I recognize immediately, but let’s take a look before I make a decision on whether I think she is influential or not.

  • She is a prosecutor in Afghanistan, focuses especially on cases of violence against women.
  • She couldn’t work under the Taliban so she took to schooling girls in her house. Illegally.
  • She has been a hard voice of dissent to the Afghan government’s practices, especially those that restrict women.
  • She has been honor with the International Women of Courage Award by the US government.
  • She has faced assassination attempts.

I definitely think she is influential for a bunch of reasons. First of all, she is giving other women in Afghanistan someone to look up to. Women in Afghanistan need many things to be empowered, but one part of the picture is having positive female role models, so that women and girls have something to aspire to. Maria is providing that. Second, she illegally taught girls during the rain of the Taliban. This makes her influential because these girls will go on to have better lives because they are educated. Those girls have been directly influenced. Third, she is helping to ensure that laws are enforced. This will directly help Afghanistan to become a better place for women and children. She has been highly influential in this area. And not that I would say this is a true way to measure influence, but she has faced multiple assassination attempts and has guards who protect her. Generally, only people who have enough power to change things face these kind of circumstances. If there weren’t people who thought she was making a difference in Afghanistan, then they wouldn’t try to kill her. So I think she is definitely influential. What are your thoughts? Do you think Maria Bashir is influential or do you disagree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

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Women at M.I.T. – Too Much of an Advantage?

I read an interesting article today from the New York Times. A bit old but still conjured up a lot of thoughts.

In the late 1990s, women at MIT began to talk. And when they began to talk, they realized that they were getting the short end of the stick. Their lab spaces were smaller, their salaries were lower, and there were a lot less of them than they were of men. So they took it up the ladder, to someone who could do something about it. And things changed for the better.

But now, they face the problem that people are accusing them of only being successful because they’re a woman. For example, people think the college works too hard to recruit them, that women only win prizes because they’re women, and that male undergrads tell female undergrads that they’re only there because of affirmative action.  And accusations like that can really hurt when you’ve worked hard. They also face tight personality roles that there is a lot of pressure to conform to, that women professors have to act a certain way.

Additionally, there are parts that the women themselves don’t like. There’s a rule requiring a woman on every committee, but with less women, the women have to take on more committees, so they argue that they lose out on a lot of time they could be spending researching or doing consultancies. Additionally, women get a lot of invitations to speak on panels about work life balance – many more invitations to speak than the men do.

Then there are parts that are really great – everyone can have a year off (male and female) after a child is born, there’s day care available, and if you travel away on business, M.I.T. helps cover the cost of child care.  However, even this gets abused as some men take it and use it to work instead of taking care of their child.

I don’t think this is the case. In fact, at M.I.T. for a man or a woman to get tenure, they need to have 15 different outside recommendations – a hard standard for anyone to beat. I would doubt too that anyone would say that this girl, who I blogged about before, was let in just because she was a woman. And this graduate of M.I.T. was certainly a smart and talented women. They do exist, male scientists, they do. Don’t knock those awesome women! Girl power!

“To women in my generation, these residual issues can sound small because we see so much progress. But they’re not small; they still create an unequal playing field for women — not just at universities, and certainly not just at M.I.T. And they’re harder to change because they are a reflection of where women stand in society.” – Nancy H. Hopkins

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Girl Child Soldiers

So I said that I would try and do my best despite having school and I totally failed this first week. However, going ahead, I think now that I know my schedule and I know that it’s not going to change anymore and that I’m recommitting myself, I will do it. This is one of the things that I do for myself and I miss it when I don’t do it. So I’m making a commitment to you, my readers, and to myself.

Warning: I will say this several times but the below is hard to handle and hard to read. It’s heartbreaking.

So back on track, I want to share a short film today. I will warn you it is VERY disturbing if you’ve never seen anything like it before and it does contain graphic images and language. It is a video demonstrating how children become child soldiers. I’ll talk about this and what it means for young girls after the video. I think, however, despite the fact that it is disturbing and graphic, it is something that people should see. I think sometimes it’s hard for me (and others) to conceptualize how adults turn small children into killing machines. I think this is something that the video does well – it takes it and puts it in a Western setting, in a school setting we’re familiar with, that we can imagine. And this is how it happens, on a basic level. So please watch, if you can.

War School (Short Film) from Pulse Films on Vimeo.

Before watching this video, I also had never realized that 40 percent of child soldiers worldwide are girls. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me that girls too were affected by child soldiering, but I mainly thought (wrongly) that boys were the only ones taken. I’m not sure why because I had even read stories of girls who were taken, but it never hit me until I watched this video that 40 percent (which is still a huge number, even though it’s less than boys, because it means that 2 out of every 5 child soldiers are girls). So obviously, it effects girls too in a huge way.

If you don’t know a lot about child soldiering in general, I encourage you to google it or ask questions here on the blog. At the basic level, it’s where a child is either forced to become a soldier in an armed conflict or joins “willingly” for promised benefits or out of feeling like there is no other choice.

I’m going to talk for a bit about girl child soldiers.Because they do differ from boy child soldiers in some ways, though many of the things they face are common problems. For example, something unique to girls is that they often report joining “voluntarily” to escape tough home situations – such as domestic abuse or sexual abuse or even just to escape being a domestic servant. So often times, if they aren’t abducted, their motivation for entering comes out of trying to escape other situations that are also bad. Pretty much, it’s a lose-lose situation. These girl child soldiers have been found in over 50 countries, so it’s not a problem that is just going to go away on its own.

While they are in, they face unique hardships because not only are they involved in combat, but they are sometimes subject to sexual violence or rape or end up becoming a “wife” to one of the adult leaders (I put it in quotation marks because I do not feel these young girls who become “wives” of the leaders have any choice in the matter). It’s especially cruel considering the above fact that some girls enter into to escape sexual abuse and then end up subjected to it anyways. Truly lose-lose again. Also, because of the rape and the fact that some of them are “wives,” if they become pregnant or have small children, they are expected to keep fighting anyways. Imagine yourself as a pregnant girl or as a girl with a newborn and then being sent to the frontline of an armed conflict. It’s horrible and heartbreaking.

“Our work found that the vast majority were sexually assaulted. You’d be dealing with very high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, about 30% of the girls in the three countries we worked in became pregnant during captivity in the fighting forces and are now returning as girl mothers.” – Diane Mazarana

They are also sometimes chosen to be suicide bombers, specifically because they are girls and they may not receive as close of a body search as a boy would – so these girls are being sent to death. It’s also sick and twisted because many, many groups will claim they are empowering these girls by offering a better option to be “more equal” with men, even though that’s clearly not the case at all.

Additionally, once they are in they face a harder time getting out. They are often left out of programs designed to help them get out and reintegrate them into society, either on purpose or accidentally and often face more stigmas upon returning to their hometowns because they have been raped or have small children. All is not helpless though, because now that people and groups are becoming more aware of it, there are organizations working specifically to help these girls.

Let me close lastly with these words. “The problems of girl soldiers are only one small element in a much wider array of girls’ issues and denial of girls’ rights.” -Michael Wessells And I think it’s true – I mean, look at how much of the idea that girls are sex objects and can be used for sex goes into the unique situation that girls face when they become child soldiers. Absolutely all child soldiering should be stopped, but girls face unique problems related to their unequal status – like the fact that many communities shame rape so much, even though it is not the fault of the girls.

I will end with these pictures and quotes from girl child soldiers. They are harsh and hard to read and see, but they are the reality that these girls face. Note, the pictures and the quotes underneath them are (as far as I know) not the same girls.

“I’ve seen people get their hands cut off, a ten-year-old girl raped and then die, and so many men and women burned alive . . . So many times I just cried inside my heart because I didn’t dare cry out loud.” A girl child soldier from Sierra Leone

“There was no one in charge of the dormitories and on a nightly basis we were raped. The men and youths would come into our dormitory in the dark, and they would just rape us – you would just have a man on top of you, and you could not even see who it was. If we cried afterwards, we were beaten with hosepipes. We were so scared that we did not report the rapes The youngest girl in our group was aged 11 and she was raped repeatedly in the base.” – A girl child soldier in Zimbabwe

 “At the age of 13, I joined the student movement. I had a dream to contribute to make things change, so that children would not be hungry, later I joined the armed struggle. I had all the inexperience and the fears of a little girl. I found that girls were obliged to have sexual relations ‘to alleviate the sadness of the combatants’. And who alleviated our sadness after going with someone we hardly knew?” – Girl Child Soldier from Honduras

“When you are pregnant there is no hospital in the bush, if the baby dies inside you they will rip it from you by force. It happened to many girls not just me.” – Juliet, a girl child soldier in Uganda

“One boy tried to escape, but he was caught… His hands were tied, and then they made us, the other new captives, kill him with a stick. I felt sick. I knew this boy from before. We were from the same village. I refused to kill him and they told me they would shoot me. They pointed a gun at me, so I had to do it. The boy was asking me, “Why are you doing this?” I said I had no choice. After we killed him, they made us smear his blood on our arms… They said we had to do this so we would not fear death and so we would not try to escape. . . I still dream about the boy from my village who I killed. I see him in my dreams, and he is talking to me and saying I killed him for nothing, and I am crying.” – Susan, a girl child soldier from Uganda

“When I came back I really wanted to go back to school. I always dreamt about school and my friends from before even when I was in the bush.” – Juliet, a girl child soldier from Uganda

“One day, my battalion commander took me to his bivouac (a military encampment) to rape me. Then he said that if I rebelled or tried to flee, he would kill me.” – Bea, a girl child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo

“Many girls have been through hardship like me, they are denied an education. If you are not educated, you are nothing.” – Juliet, a girl child soldier in Uganda

 “My father didn’t want to see me again since he had heard people saying how soldiers had abused me.” – Josephine, a girl child soldier from the Democratic Republic of Congo

“Being responsible for other people was distressing. It’s either they die or I die in the crossfire because I am the one leading them.” – Aida, a girl child soldier from the Phillipines

” I feel pain from the rape, as if I have wounds inside, and I am afraid I have a disease. I would like to get tested but there is noone to help me. I was tested in the reception centre in Gulu , but I was never told the result. The doctor said that it is better not to know the result.” – A girl child soldier from Uganda

“I really want to rest and be with my mother… The best is to go home. I have this feeling that I’d be able to forget about the movement… I just want to laugh. I was always crying [when I was in the movement].” – Aida, a girl child soldier in the Phillipines

Books (As usual, I haven’t read them, just found them):

Sources:

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The Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education

Living in the US I have a unique opportunity to education that many other women and girls around the world do not. The UN and many others around the world have long recognized the importance of educating women and girls. Secretary Ban Ki Moon said, ““Education sends a message – a message of confidence and hope. It tells that child; you have a future; what you think matters.” Which is true. When you teach someone to think, it makes a huge difference. That’s why they started the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education. It is going to focus on literacy (a key skill for life) and secondary education. Like I have said before, not everything the UN does is good or perfect, but girls do need to be educated. They need to learn how to read and write, most importantly, because being literate can go a long way to improving your status in the world. While there are many people in general around the world who can’t read, women make up a disproportionate amount of those because they are often not allowed to go to school or have to stay home to help with things in the domestic sphere. Even when they do go to school, they usually stay fewer years than their male counterparts because their families don’t value educating them and they don’t see the need.

I have to be honest, there is one thing about this that bothers me. The fact that he talks about how education women and girls are reducing fertility as a good thing is what bothers me. First of all, because of the implication that when women are educated, they won’t want to have as many children (even though I, myself, want to have four children someday if God blesses us with them and I consider myself pretty educated and know others who are also educated who want large families). Second, because it’s paraded as a good thing, even though much of the world is in a fertility decline or very close to one. So there’s some good and some bad, like most things.

Source: Ban outlines social benefits of ensuring women have access to education

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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.

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Schools Should Be Sexual Harassment Free

I stumbled upon this report a little while ago and I was kind of shocked and at the same time I was like, I think maybe I already knew this. But according to the End Violence Against Women Coalition, a third of girls face sexual harassment by their peers in school.

And a third, to me, is way too many. And I tend to feel that perhaps this is on the lower end of things, because the only way these things are usually measured through self-reporting. That and some people may not realize that what happened to them is sexual harassment.

But I think it’s a serious problem. It makes school a very uncomfortable place when you have to worry about that. If you’re uncomfortable and worried about it, you’re going to have a harder time focusing in class, which will probably lead to a harder time in school in general.

And I, unfortunately, have to say that I’ve experienced this. I was dancing one time at a school dance – not even provocatively – and these guys came up to me and tried to stuff dollar bills in my dress. I know some people might be flattered by that, but for me it made me really uncomfortable and made me rethink, a lot of times, whether or not I really wanted to go to the dances anymore.

So I think that definitely a push for ending sexual harassment in schools is really necessary to make a friendly and safe learning environment for everyone.

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