“They took the door off so the hyenas would get her.”
Sitting in the darkened room with thousands of others, I listened intently as the woman on stage continued. The speaker was no other than Sheryl WuDunn, the Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of Half the Sky, and the setting was this year’s Justice Conference.
Having previously read Half the Sky, I was reminded again of the countless numbers of women who looked beyond their circumstances to overcome challenges, and change their families and communities for the better. I remembered the underlying causes of global gender inequality, and WuDunn’s urgent call in her book to empower girls and women. The solution to ending poverty lies in educating females and bringing them into the formal workforce. In that, women’s empowerment isn’t simply a good issue to promote, but part of creating a just world.
BOSTON -- The one thing that Afrah Farah will tell you about her genital cutting experience is that it happened. She doesn’t want to say how old she was, where it happened, or who was or wasn't with her.
Yet, despite the painful memories that the experience evokes and her concerns about people's reactions, Farah, said she knows she has to speak out.
“It’s basically a traumatizing experience. It’s traumatizing for every young girl that goes through that. It’s something that sticks in your memory, and physically,” said Farah, a Somali immigrant who came to the Boston area by way of Kuwait and Germany in 2007, and now works as a drug developer in a Massachusetts laboratory.
“There are millions of people who are affiliated with this procedure -- parents, grandparents, people in the community -- and to label them all as bad people or barbaric, that’s wrong. You will push them away. To solve a problem like this, you need to approach people with respect.”
Because of its severity and prevalence, female genital mutilation (FGM, or "cutting") is arguably one of the most important human rights issues in the world. It’s also become increasingly important in the U.S. as the number of immigrants from countries where it is practiced grows.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Gates talks to the Guardian (UK) newspaper about reconciling her Catholic faith — the wife of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates says she attends mass regularly — with her work promoting family planning. Gates was in London this week to discuss promoting contraception in the developing world with UK government representatives. The Gates Foundation hopes to encourage donor pledges that will enable 120 million women to have access to contraceptives by 2020.
Every day, millions of children go hungry. But it doesn't have to be that way.
- Hunger is the world's No. 1 health risk, causing more deaths annually worldwide than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
(Source: World Food Program)
- One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonite.
(Source: World Food Program)
- There are more hungry people in the world (925 million) than the combined population of the United States, Canada and the European Union (841 million)
(Source: World Food Program)
Find out about the causes of hunger — and the solutions — in a new video from World Vision Australia (with music by Gotye) inside the blog...
I find myself thinking a lot about maternal mortality (and the issues that surround it, like access to contraception) lately, partly because I’ll soon be moving to a country with one of the world’s most dismal maternal mortality rates, and partly because my husband and I aren’t planning to have more biological children, which means that we’re contracepting for the duration.
Also, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky movement is gaining even more visibility — PBS’s Independent Lens is creating a series of short films and some longer features on issues raised in their bestselling, well-worth-reading book even as birth control reemerges again and again as a point of contention between Catholic bishops and nuns, between government policy and religious conviction, and even, as Amy Frykholm as suggested, among evangelicals.
Recently I’ve become aware that unwanted pregnancies are nothing new — certainly not the product of a culture that’s “anti-life” or anti-children, as the new-ish evangelical suspicion of birth control has it. In the 1850s, Mathilde Shillock, a German immigrant settled on the Minnesota frontier wrote,
“God has entrusted us with a son...it seems that his father is happy over it, I myself do not wish for any more children, as I look upon life as a heavy burden. [...] pity is all I can offer [this child]. Pity and a feeling of duty towards him to lighten his blameless fate.”
Some 15 years ago, my aunt and uncle gave me the gift of goat for Christmas.
Let me rephrase: They didn’t give me an actual goat, but they donated a goat — in my honor — to a village in the developing world.
At age 15, I was less than pleased. The plight of starving children and the needs of my indigent brothers and sisters around the globe were far too serious and far too abstract for my selfish teenage brain to wrap itself around.
Today, though, I find myself in the ironic position of wanting to buy goats, mosquito nets, and other items as Christmas gifts in honor of my own family members. This causes me to look back on my selfishness as a teen and see how blind I was to the idea of grace — to the beauty and significance of my aunt and uncle’s gift.
Right now, in cities around the world, there is a growing protest movement putting the issue of economic inequality squarely on the public agenda. Regardless how you feel about this movement, I believe there is another "99 percent" we need the G20 – and urgently Congressional leaders – to remember and prioritize.
Nearly 8 million children under the age of five die every year due to preventable malnutrition and disease. But they are not dying in the United States, Germany or here in France.
According to research by World Vision’s Child Health Now campaign, 99 percent of those entirely preventable deaths take place in developing countries. The 99 percent of the children that die under the age of 5 are too often invisible and don't have a voice at major global summits such as the G20 or in the corridors of Congress. These children constitute the real and too often forgotten 99 percent.
I just watched a 60 Minutes expose on Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea and co-founder of the nonprofit the Central Asia Institute. Watching this news story that accused Mortenson of fabricating key stories in his book, lacking organizational/financial transparency and effectiveness, and receiving "excessive" personal benefits from his organization felt like a punch in the gut, even if it's of the too familiar heroes-come-crashing-down variety.
It must have felt like a punch to many. None of us like to give our hard-earned pennies or dollars or peace prize money to someone who betrays our confidence.
I felt it in my gut, too, because Mortenson and I have a lot in common. We've both published two memoirs about our experiences and work for education in the developing world -- he in Afghanistan, and me in Haiti. We both travel to speak about our work -- albeit he on a much grander, best-selling-er scale than me. Once I stood for half an hour in a book line to talk with him for two minutes and he seemed touchingly humble and friendly.
"My father was born by a river bed and left to die. My mother grew up in extreme poverty. They made it. I am their story, they inspire me!" These are the words of my new friend Rudo, an amazing young woman from Zimbabwe who has come through so much and has now been chosen to be one of a thousand ambassadors of the Make Poverty History Road Trip who next week are acting to make history.
As the pastor of a church with a deep desire to love others as Christ would, I've recently been telling folks, "If you only read one book this year, then you must read http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0785229183?ie=UTF8&tag=sojo_blog-20&lin...
There's roads and there's roads And they call, can't you hear it? Roads of the earth And roads of the spirit . . .
- Bruce Cockburn's "Child of the Wind"
Mali. Mozambique. Central America. The Himalayas. Kosovo.