December 2nd, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
A column by Sandy Banks in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times reminds us of the challenges that single mothers face. Not only do they struggle to raise their kids on their own, they also must bear the judgement and stereotypical criticism that our society tends to place on them. Regardless of their actual circumstances, the immediate assumption is that single mothers are careless, irresponsible or at fault for their situation, i.e., for raising children as a solo parent. (Unless, of course, they are a widow, in which case they get a pass.) But the simple truth is that single mothers need our support, not our judgement. According to Banks:
One-quarter of this country’s children are being raised by single women. And what those 18 million children need most is support for their mothers: better education, quality child care, a fair workplace with equal pay, more access to job training.
The December 15 application deadline for the Soroptimist Women’s Opportunity Award is fast approaching. This signature Soroptimist program provides financial support to women heads of household who are trying to improve their economic status through education or vocational training. Most of them are single women. It’s one way that Soroptimist members try to be a light of opportunity for them, instead of a judge.
Read Banks’ column here.
November 10th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Tuesday’s election resulted in a record number of women elected to the United States Congress. Twenty (the highest ever) will serve in the Senate, and at least 77 will serve in the House of Representatives. The election also yielded a number of firsts. For example, New Hampshire became the first state to have its entire Congressional delegation comprised of females, as well as the Governor.
The Center for American Women and Politics provides a full rundown of notable 2012 election achievements for women in this press release.
While we should celebrate these advances, we also must realize that they may not be enough. An interesting study by professors at Princeton and Brigham Young University shows that until women approach equal representation, their ability to influence public policy is severely limited. It is not until women make up at least half of the elected body that they are able to advance policies and programs that benefit women, girls and the other most vulnerable groups in society.
It’s natural to want a break from politics after a national election. But let’s not rest on our laurels. The world won’t get better for women and girls until we have more women elected to positions at every level of government, in every country around the world. The 2012 election showed the power of women in the voting booth to bring about change. It’s not too soon to start looking for talented, qualified women to run for office in 2014.
October 18th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Natalie Warner is an anonymous extraordinary–and she’s darn inspiring, too. Find out more about what an anonymous extraordinary is and how you can become one here. You’re never too young (or too old) to start.
October 15th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
A 16-year old girl gets raped by two men coming home from work. Traumatized when her father catches the perpetrators in the act, she goes to a relative’s house, douses herself in kerosene, and sets herself on fire. Despite the efforts of her family to save her, she dies.
In the developed world we would expect there to be a prompt police investigation, a quick arrest of the perpetrators, and that justice would be served. But instead of justice, we get this: An elected official from the district where the rape occurs suggests that the best solution to preventing rape in the future is to force girls to marry young. “This way rapes will not occur,” he says.
Because this incident didn’t happen in the developed world. It happened in India, where the incidence of rape has increased 27% since 2006, and 870% since 1971 when India started keeping records. It happened in India, where 40% of the world’s child marriages occur, according to UN reports. It happened in India, where it is common for victims to be pressured to marry their rapists and drop the charges against them, so they can erase the stigma of being “tainted.”
This girl’s death has sparked outrage–and rightfully so. But it illustrates that there is still much work to be done to protect the rights of women and girls and raise their social and economic status not only in India, but also elsewhere around the world. Read more about the challenges in India here.
October 14th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Thursday, October 11 marked the first International Day of the Girl Child, an effort by the United Nations and civil society to raise awareness about the importance of educating girls as an effective strategy for addressing many of our world’s problems. Sadly, October 11 also was the day when 14-year old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for wanting to go to school. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the incident has prompted many individuals and organizations to rally behind the cause for female education. Soroptimist has recognized the importance of improving access to education for women and girls for decades. It’s nice to know we are at the forefront of a global movement to help women and girls live their dreams, take control of their own lives and live according to their own values. Read more about how Malala’s attack has helped advance our mission to improve female access to education here.
October 3rd, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
We like to think that women leaders would be better for women. In fact, Soroptimist advocates for the advancement of women in positions of leadership, because we want to believe that women leaders will use their power and influence to help other women live their dreams.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Take Bangladesh, for example. Sheikh Hasina, the female prime minister of Bangladesh is waging a war against the man who founded the Grameen Bank and the economic model that has helped empower women throughout the world. And even worse, she and her government are trying to seize control of the bank from its shareholders, almost all of them women.
Nicholas Kristof explains in this New York Times Op-Ed piece.
How can we expect men to treat us better if women don’t–particularly when they have the power to do so?
October 1st, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
In the United States a documentary called “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women” will be broadcast on PBS on October 1 and 2. The film was shot in 10 countries (Cambodia, Kenya, India, Sierra Leone, Somaliland, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia and the U.S.) and introduces women and girls who are living under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable — and fighting bravely to change them.
If you enjoyed reading “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, you’ll love this film. I’ll be watching it tonight and tomorrow–and I encourage you to watch it too.
For more information about the Half the Sky Movement, click here.
September 19th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Think we don’t need feminism today? Think again! Another wonderful Feminism FAQ from Jarrah Hodge, author of the Canadian blog Gender Focus. Visit it here.
September 17th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Today I came across a wonderful series of “Feminism FAQs” YouTube videos by Jarrah Hodge, who writes a blog called Gender Focus.
I particularly liked What is Feminism?, which clearly explains what feminism really is and why those of us who desire equal rights for women are feminists. I also enjoyed What Women Have Been Told They Can’t Do. In this one, Hodge provides a brief history lesson of the many things women have been told they can’t do as well as men, including several current day examples. Although women have made progress in the battle for gender equity, there’s a long way to go. I’m a feminist, and I’m not ashamed to say so!
Let me know if you like these videos, and I’ll post more. You can also check out the Gender Focus blog here.
August 23rd, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Eve Ensler–writer, performer, activist–has written an incredible, articulate response to Todd “legitimate rape” Akin.
Read it here.
And yes, we should rise up–not just women, but any of us who are tired of the violence directed at women and girls in the form of rape, honor killings, domestic violence, objectification and harassment–and of the politicians who continue to pontificate instead of helping us do something about it.