March 8, 2011

How To Celebrate International Women’s Day From Your Comfortable Suburban Home

Filed under: Gender,Politics — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 1:27 pm
Originally posted at Pigtail Pals by Melissa Wardy. Cross-posted with permission.
My view of a day spent in a Cape Town township, South Africa.

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.  A day to celebrate economic, political, and social gains by women worldwide. Today we honor achievements, and remember the women before us who brought us to this day. Today. A day to celebrate women.

Sisters, wives,  mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, neighbors, friends, schoolmates, and coworkers.  The women of our world.
Yet in many places of the world, today will pass without celebration. Odds are good somewhere a woman will cradle a starving or sick child. Somewhere a woman will receive verbal threats or a physical blow from an intimate partner. Somewhere a girl will be raped as she walks to school. Somewhere a woman will walk miles for the clean water she needs to feed her family the one meal a day they can afford.
Somewhere a woman will be informed she has lost her job because she had taken time off to birth a child. Somewhere a woman will take home a paycheck that is nearly 1/3 less than that of the guy in the office next to her, although they do the same job. Somewhere a girl will sit in a classroom and be too timid to raise her hand. Somewhere a woman will give up on political ambitions.
All of those things have just happened in the time it took you to read those sentences.
None of these stories have changed in the 100 years we have celebrated women on this day. But still, we celebrate. Because for over 100 years the voices of women have not been silenced, their dreams have not been swept away despite often times incredible odds, their ambitions have been fulfilled despite being met with resistance. Women have always been strong. We have to be. We bear the weight of the world.
Women do 2/3 of the world’s work, earn 10% of the income, and own 1% of the land.
70 million girls are denied access to education in our world, and another 60 million will be sexually assaulted on their way to school.
That all seems far removed from me, as I sit in my comfortable home, typing on my laptop and fetching my son snacks while my daughter is playing at her preschool. It seems as far away as the photo above, that I took during a trip to South Africa in 2003. The children in the foreground danced around us as we unloaded treats from our pockets, and clung to our hands as we talked to the women gathered around those cement basins doing their wash. Do you see the women just right of center, in the white shirt and jean skirt? She was my age when I was on that trip – 25. She had a baby with her, which she later wrapped to her body as she carried her bundled wash on her head. She invited me to walk with her, calling me Tante Melissa. Auntie Melissa. Within minutes we had become sisters. We had nothing in common. Our worlds so different we could have been from separate planets. But still, she offered me smiles and we held hands while we walked. She was proud to show me around. I was honored she accepted me as her friend. When the combi drove away late in the afternoon, she was standing there, waving goodbye to me. I pressed my hand to the glass as I watched her get smaller and smaller.
That trip changed my life. Africa has a way of doing that to you. I have not been able to go back, as now I have my own two babes to carry around. I cannot leave them yet for several weeks at a time, so my return trip will wait. But my compassion does not have to.
Today I will celebrate the women in my world. I will send messages to the family members and colleagues who inspire me. I will thank the teachers at my daughters school. I will call a friend to say hello. I will inspire sisterhood in others. I strongly believe that sisterhood – the power of women coming together and working together – is the final untapped natural resource of our world. And it is continually renewed, with the birth of each new baby girl. We are all sisters.
There are only two IWD events in my entire state. But I won’t let that limit me. I do not believe in limitations. I will not let the comfort of my day-to-day routine in my predictable suburban neighborhood, in my cozy suburban home, make me blind to what we all need to be seeing.
So how can you change the world from where you are?
-Think globally, and donate to the amazing efforts of The Girl EffectCharity WaterKiva, and  Heifer International.
-Think locally and donate to a women’s shelter, food pantry,  Girls Inc, write a letter to a woman soldier, or offer assistance to a family you know that is in need.
-Write a letter and thank your mama.
-Give flowers to a friend or mentor with a hand written note telling her why you honor her.
-Over tip the waitress.
-Stand up and walk over to a nearby office or cubicle and tell a colleague you appreciate them.
-Cook a meal for a neighbor. Or get together with a neighbor and cook some meals for a single mom, a new mom, or a widow.
-Invite that single mom or widow into your home for dinner.
-Round up old toys and books and donate them to a crisis nursery.
-Send cards to your closest girlfriends, thanking them for having your back.
-Bake some cookies with the kids and take them to teachers or nurses on the maternity ward, thanking them for what they do for children.
-Sit down with your children and go through a book or website that shares the biographies of the intrepid women who brought us to this day.
-Draw self portraits with your girl, and help her write down her attributes that make her unique and wonderful.
-Send a note to a former teacher. Do you know how important teachers are?
-Make a commitment to offer more grace and kindness to other women.
-And finally, tonight, when all is quiet and you have your mind all your own, write a letter to yourself. Offer gratitude for everything you have in life. Write down those dreams you are too shy to say out loud, and acknowledge the dreams you’ve already made come true. Write down some happy memories from the last year, and new ones you hope to create. Take the chance to inspire yourself.
From me to you, Happy 100th International Women’s Day. Cheers to us, and let’s prepare to celebrate 100 more!

March 17, 2010

Listen up: It ain't over til it's over

…and it ain’t over. The iconic Gloria Steinem reminds us why the rights we enjoy should not be taken-for-granted and the miles we have yet to tread.

(Reuters) – A message to all those confident young American women from pioneering feminist Gloria Steinem: For all the advances in women’s rights in the past 40 years, equality remains a distant hope.

As she turns 76 next week, the woman who walked the front lines of American feminism in the 1960s and 1970s — often in a miniskirt, big glasses and buttons with colorful expletives — celebrates her good health and “huge, huge leaps forward.”

But Steinem has plenty of bones to pick with government and society when it comes to women’s rights.

American women workers still earn only 70 cents to men’s $1, women are barred from combat, women’s health care premiums are higher and raising children is not counted as productive work, she says.

While abortion is legal in the United States, Steinem says the reproductive freedom she fought for is under attack, as seen in efforts to include limits on abortion in the health care reform debate now in Congress.

“I thought if we got majority support around issues, that we would succeed, and that is not necessarily the case,” Steinem told Reuters on Tuesday before being honored by the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project in Beverly Hills.

For those awaiting a woman president of the United States, Steinem throws more cold water on their hopes, claiming she will likely not see that in her lifetime.

Steinem supported Hillary Clinton in her drive to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008 and credits her with “changing the molecules in the air a little bit” by making millions more men and women imagine a woman president.

Yet, she still maintains that the United States is not ready to elect a woman president because “female authority is still associated with a domestic setting and seems inappropriate in a public setting.”

“It will take longer, but when we have someone, she will be more likely to actually represent the majority interests of women,” said Steinem, founding co-editor of Ms. magazine.

gloria-steinem1

March 7, 2010

How far have we come since the first International Women's day?

Filed under: Event — Tags: , , , — Melanie @ 2:37 pm

Check out this great piece by Gloria Feldt. She takes inspiration from the wise words of Sojourner Truth and chronicles how far we’ve come and what we still need 99 years after the first International Women’s Day.

“If women want any rights more than they’s got, why don’t they just take them, and not be talking about it.” —Sojourner Truth, former slave, abolitionist, Methodist minister, and early U.S. women’s rights leader

International Women’s Day began 99 years ago. With so much progress accomplished since 1911, yet so much more remaining to be done, it seems to me that it’s time for women to change our approach to something closer Sojourner Truth’s.

Her advice to women as she stated it in the above quote to Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the influential anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, when they met in 1853, comes from a position of knowing her own power. Despite being been born into slavery and experiencing oppression, poverty, and discrimination far greater than most women reading this blog in 2010, Truth was way ahead of many of us in her perspective about how to advance equal rights.

Without question, in many places around the globe, women remain as oppressed as Sojourner Truth–born Isabella Baumfree in Ulster County, New York, and once sold for $100 and a herd of sheep–was before she “walked off” from her master.

Finish reading this article.

February 24, 2010

Half the Sky Event

Filed under: Event,Gender,Politics — Tags: , , — Melanie @ 8:53 pm

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Half the Sky: A One Night Event, inspired by the stories from the book with the same title, will take place Thursday, March 4.


December 1, 2008

Hillary Clinton and Global Women's Health

Cecile Richards on the implications of Hillary Clinton’s appointment:

For the past eight years, the Bush administration has enforced a global gag rule, an executive order that prevented thousands of health care entities around the world from providing women with birth control. In some parts of Africa, women have a one-in-10 risk of dying in childbirth. And as Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times in October, the result of the so-called “pro-life” policy has likely been tens of thousands of additional and avoidable abortions each year. In addition to implementing the gag rule, each year the Bush administration has denied funding to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, at the behest of the far right — money that would have paid for the provision of critical reproductive care.

Today, the incoming administration will generate another celebration by women all around the world when President-elect Obama names Hillary Clinton as our next secretary of state. The selection of Senator Clinton represents an important first step down a new path for American foreign policy — an enormous shift represented by the selection of a champion of women’s health and rights to be in charge of America foreign policy.

As first lady and as a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton visited more than 80 nations, but for a majority of the world’s population, her unique quality may be her gender. Senator Clinton understands that improving the status of women is not simply a moral imperative; it is necessary to building democracies around the globe. Improving the status of women is key to creating stable families, stable communities, and stable countries. Women’s ability to control the size of their families, regardless of economics, nationality, or culture, has a direct impact on their economic well-being and that of their children. Senator Clinton understands that women’s quality of life directly affects the major issues confronting the globe: national security, environmental sustainability, and global poverty.

In a speech that, by the standards of the Bush administration, sounds positively radical, Clinton addressed the Cairo Plus Five Forum at the Hague in 1999, saying, “Women’s reproductive health and empowerment are critical to a nation’s sustainability and growth … we now know that no nation can hope to succeed in the global economy of the 21st century if half of its people lack the opportunity and the right to make the most of their God-given potential. No nation can move forward when its women and children are trapped in endless cycles of poverty; when they have inadequate health care, poor access to family planning, limited education.”

November 17, 2008

Guest lecture: Women in Afghanistan

The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at California State University, Northridge is hosting Dr. Nancy Gallagher, University of California, Santa Barbara, to discuss:

Women in Afghanistan: Past History and Present Challenges

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 @ 7PM

Jerome Richfield 134

Dr. Nancy Gallagher is a professor of Middle Eastern and North African history and chair of the Middle East Studies Program at UCSB.  She is co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.  Her recent book is Quakers in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Dilemmas of NGO Humanitarian Activism. She is currently working on two new books.

November 10, 2008

Momeni released on bail in Iran: facing charges

Momeni’s fellow students at California Sate University, Northridge celebrated the release of Esha Momeni today and posted celebratory announcements on blogs and social utility tools that have kept her supporters informed.

Unfortunately, in the wake of the excitement, word was just received that she was released on bail but will remain in Iran to face her charges.  She is scheduled to appear in court tomorrow.

Mostaghim and Daragahi report:

Esha Momeni, 28, a dual U.S. and Iranian citizen who was visiting Iran to research a master’s thesis, may not leave the country and must still stand before a political tribunal to face charges of “acting against national security” and “propagating against the system,” said Reza Momeni, her father.

Both are serious charges that can carry lengthy prison sentences.

In a brief telephone interview, Momeni said his daughter had lost about 15 pounds but otherwise appeared to be in good health. He said he had to put up the deed to his family’s Tehran apartment as collateral to win his Los Angeles-born daughter’s release.

“I hope she will go back to L.A. soon,” he said. “But for now, the authorities told us she is forbidden to go out. Tomorrow, we will be in court, and they will tell us what the next step will be.”

Posted on the CSUN website October 28, Mostaghim and Daragahi report:

Before her arrest, Momeni, a Cal State Northridge student, followed a path that differed from much of the rest of Southern California’s Iranian diaspora. While many Iranians fled their country to the United States after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, her family moved back to Iran from the U.S. in the early 1980s.

Reza Momeni, a U.S. citizen and father of five, was studying in Southern California at the time of the revolution. When war broke out between Iran and Iraq in 1980, he moved his family back home. He helped rebuild damaged sites, working in conflict-ravaged areas around cities such as Bandar Abbas and Bushehr.

Esha Momeni showed an early passion for the arts, learning to play the tar, a traditional string instrument, and delving into poetry and literature. She graduated from a Tehran college with a degree in graphics and in 2003 married a man her father described as a “male chauvinist” with emotional problems.

“She had a bad experience,” her father said. “Finally she managed to end her ordeal by divorcing him.”

The bitter breakup drove her from arts to activism, specifically women’s rights issues. She began participating in the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality, a group that connects activists in Iran with diaspora communities in the West.

Activist organizations, many of which advocate peaceful political and social change, greatly irk authorities in the Islamic Republic. Iran accuses them of being fronts for Western powers seeking to topple the government using the “velvet revolution” tactics that contributed to the downfall of former Soviet states.

A report issued this month by a United Nations human rights watchdog raised concerns about “an increasing crackdown in the past year on the women’s rights movement” in Iran.

“Women’s rights activism is sometimes presented by the Iranian government as being connected to external security threats to the country,” the report says.

November 6, 2008

Free Esha Momeni Candlelight Vigil @ CSUN 11/12/08

On October 24, I posted information on the arrest of Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge.  Momeni was arrested in Iran while conducting graduate research for her advanced degree in Communication Studies.

According to a fellow student, “A U.S. citizen by birth and Iranian by descent, Esha was in Tehran interviewing women who are part of the women’s rights movement there.  The purpose of her research was to show the depth and strength of Iranian women to those of here who often underestimate their roles.  Esha has now been charged with crimes stating that she poses a threat to Iranian security.  We, her fellow students, respectfully ask the Iranian officials to release her, safely, to her family, and we hope that you will join us in this request.”

In an effort to raise awareness on Momeni’s current situation and as part of the collaborative effort to bring her home, a candlelight vigil will be held in her honor.

WHEN: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 @ 4:30PM

WHERE: California State University, Northridge @ the Grand Staircase in front of the Oviatt Library

For further information, visit: the official myspace page maintained by her fellow graduate students, the Esha Momeni blog , facebook page, or the latest news report from Reuters.

October 31, 2008

Mother's rights vs. fetal rights: how do we value women?

Brought to you by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women:

Brought to you by the Massachusetts School of Law:

October 24, 2008

Grad student jailed in Iran

One of our grad students at California State University, Northridge, Esha Momeni, has been arrested and jailed for a stated “traffic offense.”  Momeni, a graduate student in the Department of Communication Studies, had been in Iran for several months conducting research via video interviews for her master’s thesis on women’s movements. According to reports, Momeni is a member of Campaign for Equality which seeks to campaign on behalf of Iranian women.  She is not the only member that has been arrested in connection with the mission of the campaign.

As reported in the Bloomberg Press today:

Esha Momeni, 28, a graduate student at the university’s Northridge campus, was taken into custody Oct. 15 in Tehran on “suspicion of committing a traffic offense” while driving on the Moddaress Highway, the human rights group said in a statement.

Police then searched her family’s home in Tehran and confiscated her computer and footage of interviews she conducted, Amnesty said. She was taken to Evin Prison, and authorities told her relatives she would be released quickly if they didn’t publicize her arrest, according to Amnesty.

When officials at a branch of the country’s Revolutionary Court told the family no information on her case would be released until an investigation is completed, relatives decided to make details of the arrest public, Amnesty said. Momeni has not been charged with any crimes and is at risk of being mistreated or tortured, the group said.

“We’re tracking reports and official statements and will continue to monitor the situation,” Nicole Choueiry, a spokeswoman for London-based Amnesty International said today in a telephone interview.

University president, Jolene Koester, issued this statement:

I am deeply concerned that one of our graduate students, Esha Momeni, has been arrested and detained by Iranian authorities while conducting research as part of her Master’s degree requirements in Mass Communications at California State University, Northridge. My understanding is that her thesis project focused on women’s issues in Iran.

Ms. Momeni is a U.S. citizen. She is a student invested in learning and understanding current conditions in the country of her family’s origin.

Anyone who values knowledge and the role of academic inquiry in shedding light on the human condition should be concerned. We are in support of the efforts of the U.S. government in their efforts to secure Ms. Momeni’s immediate release and are in the process of contacting the following individuals and organizations to obtain their assistance: Senator Diane Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, Representative Brad Sherman, the Department of State, and Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations Mohammad Khazaee.

The university has taken action by contacting the Iranain ambassador to the UN, Congressman Sherman and Senators Boxer and Feinstein.

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