September 21st, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford
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
August 23rd, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford
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.
July 25th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford
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!!!
July 5th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford
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.”
May 26th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford
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.
January 11th, 2014 . by Cathy Standiford
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.
December 23rd, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
As I have travelled around the world, I have come to realize that no matter where we live, no matter what our culture or religion or socio-economic status, all women and girls want basically the same things. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, here are my Top 10 holiday wishes for women and girls.
- An end to rape, trafficking, bullying, female genital mutilation, domestic violence and all other forms of violence against women and girls
Improved access to education — the pathway to social and economic empowerment
More women in positions of leadership in the board room, the halls of justice, and local and national governments. Ideally, equal representation in all of those venues
An end to gender bias in the media, and more images that value women and girls for what they think instead of what they look like
More access to health care
An end to war and conflict
More people like me who care about issues facing women and girls, and who want to do something about it. (Hint: you can find out more about how to get involved at either liveyourdream.org
May 2014 be a year of positive change that makes the world better, not just for women and girls, but for all of us. Happy Holidays!
October 27th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
The language we use can say a lot, sometimes without us even recognizing it. Language euphemisms are the “disguised” stories we sometimes use to describe our actions. For example, unethical and potentially fraudulent bookeeping may be called “creative accounting practices.” We have “collateral damage” in military actions, not civilian deaths. Language euphemisms themselves may not be dangerous. In fact, they can help simplify some of the complexities of our world. But I sometimes worry about the attitudes underlying some of the euphemisms.
For example, what if we say it isn’t “rape,” it’s “entitlement?” Or, that forcing sex on a woman is just “entertainment?”
A study on the prevalence of rape published this month in The Lancet Global Health Journal surveyed more than 10,000 men between the ages of 18 and 49 from six Asian countries (Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka). The study found that when the word “rape” was not used in the survey, more men admitted to forcing sex on a woman who was not their partner. When they were asked why they forced themselves on women, 73% said it was because of “entitlement.” And 59% said they raped for “entertainment.”
Sadly, I don’t believe for a minute that using such euphemisms as a justification for rape is limited to men from the six countries studied. Until we can all name it for what it is, not only are the attitudes dangerous, but also the words.
September 27th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
Groups in Montana are calling for the removal of a judge who issued a particularly lenient sentence last month to a high school teacher for raping his 14-year-old student. Stacey Rambold was convicted of the rape and sentenced to 15 years in prison by District Judge G. Todd Baugh, who then completely suspended all but 30 days of the sentence. Adding insult to injury, the judge justified the light sentence by stating that the victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist. The victim, Cherice Morales, committed suicide before the case went to trial.
The last time I checked, when the law defines rape as sex with a minor, it doesn’t matter if she was more mature than her chronological age. And in a classroom setting, teachers have the power, not the students. It’s hard to believe that the victim was truly in control of the situation. Judge Baugh’s ruling is indicative of the misogynistic attitude that if a woman (or girl) is raped, it’s because she was “asking for it.”
Fortunately, the Montana National Organization for Women, MoveOn.org, and other women’s advocacy organizations have submitted petitions with more than 140,000 signatures calling for Baugh’s removal to the State commission regulating judges. Let’s hope the commission isn’t as off base as Judge Baugh clearly is.
August 28th, 2013 . by Cathy Standiford
I turned on the MTV Video Music Awards the other night because I wanted to see Lady Gaga perform. And I was not disappointed. But then there came Miley Cyrus. After watching her performance, which shocked, saddened and appalled me, I turned the TV off.
John S. Dickerson’s opinion piece in USA Today this morning gets it right. We own some responsibility (and blame and shame) for encouraging such inappropriate public behavior by young women. We encourage it through our viewing and purchasing habits, which tell young girls like Miley Cyrus that they will be loved, valued, popular, if they “get as naked as possible and behave the way sex slaves are forced to in countries where women are chained to beds and beaten.”
My biggest fear is that the post VMA chat about Cyrus will encourage her to behave this way even more. And that other young girls will be encouraged to follow in her footsteps. When we choose to watch programs that value girls and young women for something other than their bodies, only then will the kind of public display we witnessed stop being valued by our society.