Life, Love, and Dirty Diapers

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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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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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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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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The Myth of Overpopulation

So, something that I often hear is that the world is overpopulated and we need population control. This is the reason that we need abortion and contraceptive, people claim. I even heard this at the UN HLM on Youth. It’s really frustrating because I know that pushing that story actually hurts the world. I have known for a long time that many developing countries are below replacement rate. Just a few weeks ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even ran an article saying that the percentage of children in the US is the lowest it’s ever been and that 1 in 4 of those children are the children of immigrants. This is a very real problem that needs to be addressed.

So when I ran across this video series about overpopulation, I fell in love with it. It uses real facts and backs all of that up on their website with sources. Plus, it says it in a way that’s very concrete and easy to understand, with pretty fun animations. Here are videos 1-4 in the series. I’m not sure if they plan to make more or not, but I would love it if they did.

Overpopulation: The Making of the Myth – this video shows how the whole myth of overpopulation began.

2:1 Kids: A Stable Population – this video shows what makes a stable population and why it makes a stable population.

Food: There’s Lots of It – this video disputes the claim that there is not enough food to go around to everyone and that is why we need population control

Poverty: Where We All Started – this video explains where poverty comes from and how more population doesn’t make more poverty

They also list all their science and their sources. Check it out below:

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