The March 3 Dilbert comic would have been more funny if it weren’t so darn true.
There’s a green hoodie sweatshirt hanging in my closet that says “Save Darfur.” I bought it a decade ago to draw attention to the genocide there. This was before South Sudan became an independent state–even before the United States named the atrocities being committed as a genocide. I remember gathering with people on the beach in Corona del Mar to spell out the word “Enough” with our bodies so it could be photographed for an advocacy postcard. I remember coordinating presentations and play readings about the genocide, and in particular, sharing the stories of women being raped when they tried to leave the refugee camps to collect firewood. I remember people being horrified that genocide continued on our watch. But many years have passed since then–and my attention, and that of the world, has largely shifted away from Darfur to other countries with other atrocities. I hate to admit that it took George Clooney’s persistent advocacy to grab my attention again.
An op-ed piece in the New York Times by Clooney, John Prendergast and Akshaya Kumar focuses attention back on Sudan, where Human Rights Watch recently documented the rape of more than 200 women and girls in Darfur by the Sudanese army. It contains tangible, practical actions that can be taken by the U.S. government and other members of the international community to both hold the Sudanese government accountable and put an end to the violence continuing to plague the country.
Ten years ago we said “enough” to the genocide and “enough” to the violence being perpetrated on women and girls. It’s time to say “enough” again–this time with more than mere words.
My church hosted an “informinar” on Saturday morning to help our congregation learn about human trafficking in our own community. Sandie Morgan, Director of the Global Center for Women and Justice at Vanguard University, has worked to assist victims of human trafficking for decades. She reported during her keynote address that a common theme among trafficking victims, regardless of their culture or country of origin, is that either they are single moms, or they were raised by a single mom.
Sandie suggested that one action that would help prevent human trafficking was more “intentional support for single mothers and their families.” I couldn’t help but smile–isn’t that what the Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award (formerly the Women’s Opportunity Award) has been doing for decades? Intentional support for women who are the primary source of income for their families, and who are almost always single?
It made me even prouder of the Live Your Dream Award. Not only does it have a track record for transforming lives, it also can help prevent women and girls from being lured, tricked or coerced into modern slavery.
The Blue Campaign is an initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to raise awareness about human trafficking, how to identify potential victims, and what to do if you see the red flags of modern-day slavery. January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S. Start getting prepared by taking the Blue Campaign Human Trafficking Awareness Course. It’s completely on line, takes about 30 minutes, and I guarantee you will learn something. I’ve been studying this issue for more than 10 years, and even I learned some new things.
For more information on the Blue Campaign and other human trafficking resources, click here.
September 21 is the International Day of Peace, established to strengthen the ideals of peace both within and among all of the nations of the world. It’s hard to imagine peace when war and conflict, violence, disrespect and social injustice is so evident all around us. But the International Day of Peace reminds us that a different world–one without all of those things–should be our goal.
Soroptimist International President Ann Garvie has issued a statement calling on each of us to promote peace and tolerance in our local communities, while encouraging decision-makers around the world to end violence and conflict. Read her International Day of Peace message here.
To learn more about the International Day of Peace, visit internationaldayofpeace.org
In 2010, while serving as Soroptimist International of the Americas President, I talked with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) about the possibility of posting information about the National Human Trafficking hotline in all of their buses. I advocated that it would be a good way to raise public awareness and it could also potentially save someone’s life, since public transportation is commonly used to move trafficked women and girls.
You can imagine my disappointment when my idea was not immediately accepted and implemented. But at that time, human trafficking was not well recognized as a community issue, at least “not in our community.” You can also imagine my delight to learn that OCTA has now launched the “Be the One to Help Out” Campaign.
Be the one to help out” is a request to all OCTA bus riders to be proactive and look out for one another. You are often the first one that notices when something doesn’t seem right. When it comes to the crime of human trafficking, the simple act of letting our driver know or calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline might just rescue somebody from what is considered modern day slavery.
Information about human trafficking, signs to watch for, and how to report the presence of a potential victims safely is being displayed in all buses and on OCTA’s website. OCTA drivers also are receiving special training on human trafficking and how to safely report potential victims to local law enforcement.
This illustrates how planting an idea can ultimately bear fruit–even if it takes a little while. I want to thank OCTA for getting on board in recognizing human trafficking as a problem that is happening in our community (and on their buses), and for taking proactive steps to partner with local law enforcement and the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force do something about it.
If your local transit agency isn’t yet on board, tell them what OCTA is doing and ask them to do the same. The more awareness we can raise, the more likely women and girls will be rescued from the violence, exploitation and slavery known as human trafficking.
This morning Soroptimist launched DREAM IT * BE IT: Career Support for Girls, a new program to provide secondary school girls with education and role models to help empower them to pursue their career goals and reach their full potential. Soroptimist clubs will be conducting community assessments to identify challenges girls face and ways to help girls overcome those challenges. They will be forming partnerships with girls in their communities to ensure DREAM IT * BUILD IT reflects their unique needs and interests. We have a wonderful opportunity to be role models and advisors to help girls get an education and live their dreams. I can’t wait to work with my club to get started!!!
While the debate continues over whether working women should have the right to employer-funded contraception in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s “Hobby Lobby” decision, let us not forget that there are other, perhaps more significant risks to working women’s rights. A recent article by Richard Eskow points out “five signs that much more needs to be done to ensure equal workplace rights for women in the United States.” They include the fact that women continue to do most of work at home, despite working outside the home more, and the fact that the wage gap between men and women has not improved. The loss of public sector jobs and education cuts are also significant indicators that have disproportionately affected women, particularly teachers.
I am tired of women being the primary target for blame when they get pregnant (even though they don’t get that way all by themselves) and of misogynistic policies that support employer funding for Viagra in the name of “reproductive health,” but not contraceptives. But the gender inequalities many working women face every day and what we can be doing about them are just as worthy of passionate discourse–even if it’s not as sexy or inflammatory to talk about them.
I can’t help but wonder how different things might be today if the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence had stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Memorial Day is a national holiday in the United States for remembering the men and women who died while serving their country. There are currently more than 214,000 women serving in the U.S. armed forces, comprising approximately 14.6% of total enlisted personnel.
Although women didn’t begin serving in the armed forces until 1901, women have been on the battlefield since the American Revolution. In fact, the first woman killed by enemy fire was Jemima Warner, who died on December 11, 1775 during the siege of Quebec. Jemima had been travelling with her husband, a private in the Revolutionary Army to nurse him during poor health. Sadly, her husband died on the way to Quebec, but she continued along with the battalion.
359 women died during World War I, mostly from influenza that was sweeping the world at that time. During World War II, 543 women died in combat, 16 from enemy fire. A total of 17 nurses were killed during the Korean War, and 8 died during the Vietnam war. Sixteen women died during Operation Desert Storm. And as of April 2013, more than 143 women deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait had lost their lives in the line of duty. That number has likely increased in the last year.
For more interesting information about women in the military, visit the Women’s Memorial Foundation, or this website, dedicated to telling the history of women in combat.
Did you know there are more than 2.5 million slaves in the world today ? They are the victims of human trafficking, a modern day form of slavery. And more than 2 million of these slaves are women and children, many of whom have been sold, coerced, or tricked into the commercial sex industry.
Today is Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States. It’s intended to help raise public awareness of the slavery that exists right in front of us–though we may not always see it. To raise your awareness, visit liveyourdream.org. Beginning today and continuing over the next week, the website will be featuring a fact about human trafficking that you can post, share or send along to your contacts. You can also get the facts by following LiveYourDream.org on facebook.
To learn the facts behind the sex trafficking of women and girls, and what we can do to help stop it, read Soroptimist’s outstanding white paper at Soroptimist.org.