half the sky

December 21, 2009 § 2 Comments

so i finished a book the other day that has been radically changing my perspective on the world i live in and the possibilities of what i want to do with my life. kind of a big deal i think. the title is half the sky and it’s written by nicholas kristof and his wife sheryl wudunn. kristof is a  columnist for the new york times. they have traveled to countless countries around the world trying to bring awareness to the reality of sex trafficking, forced prostitution and gender based violence like genital cutting of women and girls, honor killings, and maternal mortality (which is easily preventable) but still taking ridiculous amounts of women’s lives.

i was somewhat aware of these acts that are accepted around the world and taking place everyday, but since i started reading this book the statistics and personal stories have been blowing my mind and laying heavy on my heart. how are women and young girls being forced into prostitution without any sort of consequence? brothel owners are forcing them to sell their bodies for sex to make a little bit of money that they usually never see. it goes straight to the brothel owners. they also get put on some sort of drug like cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. so they’ll form an addiction and stay at the brothel to feed their forced addiction.

how are honor killings an accepted part of a country’s culture and customs? in pakistan there is a woman named mukhtar who was gang raped by a group of soldiers, and she was expected to commit suicide because it was the way for her to cleanse herself and her family from the rape. something she had no control over! but she refused to commit suicide and went to the police demanding that her rapists be prosecuted.  she has recieved a lot of recognition for her efforts of bringing awareness to what is happening to the women and girls in her country but also a lot of opposition from the government. even the president of pakistan pressured her to stop speaking out because he wanted pakistan to be seen as a “shining country of opportunity” rather than a country where women and girls were abused, raped, and sometimes killed.  how can something so degrading, vile, and evil be accepted by a group of people? and why women? why are they tossed aside as if their life has no meaning and they offer no value to society?

i could honestly go on and on about the personal stories kristof highlights in this book. their lives’ have been torn apart because of what has happened to them, but some are able to rise above and seek justice. some are opening schools, hospitals and teaching seminars to men and women in their villages, encouraging them to change their way of thinking about treatment of a woman and her role in her family and village.  some women are seeking education, health care, and economic empowerment for themselves so they have a way out of this cycle. so many of these corrupt ideas are deeply rooted in their culture and traditions.

and this is where i’ve been changed. i’m an education major and have a desire to teach, but now i’m wondering in what capacity? my dream would be to educate young girls in _____ (some country), so they’re no longer forced to marry at such a young age which results in early childbearing and the possibility of maternal mortality.  it’s not healthy or natural for a 12-year-old girl living in afghanistan to have a child. she has endless opportunities if she is given an education…just like the boys her age. my dream would be to tear down brothels where 7, 8, and 9 year old girls are forced to have sex with men 3 times their age because their virginity is so sacred and stolen from them as a child. A CHILD. there’s a fire inside of me that screams, “NOTHING about this situation is right and it needs to be stopped.” righteous indignation. 

i was talking with a friend a couple weeks ago about burdens. things the Lord lays on your heart. things you’re instantly passionate about and want to see change in. and this is one of the things He has burdened my heart for.  i’m passionate about seeing young girls and women freed from forced prostitution (rape, in my eyes). i want to actively be involved. i want to see change, as impossible and overwhelming as it seems.  i’ll be honest, i don’t know exactly how i’m going to get involved yet…how i fit into this. i would love to go overseas and teach young girls. to see it first hand.  maybe work or intern for a non-profit? i know these forms of violence are usually best combatted with native women who stand up and bring change in their own country-they’re usually the most effective, but i would love to support them and at least spend some amount of time in one of those countries. to be immersed in the cause and to live life with these women and girls. cambodia. niger. thailand. afghanistan. nepal. pakistan. ethiopia. india. somalia. the congo. gah, i just don’t know. there’s need everywhere.

and in the book they talk about how the greatest need is found in the villages of these countries. peasant girls with no education are the ones who are usually sold into prostitution because they are seen as having no other contribution to society. just think of what these girls could accomplish if they were given the opportunity to go to school. they could learn a trade or skill. they could open a stand in the market and sell fruits/vegetables, hand-sewn beadwork, eggs from chickens, milk/cheese from their goats…so many opportunities. they just have to be given the chance. 

so that’s where i’m left.  feeling like a somewhat inadaquate, yet passionate 21 year old who wants to see change come about but have no idea how i can have a small part in that change.  i want to have a part. big dreams, big desires, and somewhat scattered ideas but i don’t know exactly how to put hands and feet to them. and it’s so incredibly complex.  just because you free a young woman from a brothel doesn’t mean that she won’t go back. just because you provide education for a young girl doesn’t mean that her father won’t marry her off when she’s 13 because a man in their village wants her or that she won’t be attacked on her walk to school.  just because a woman speaks up and seeks justice for her rapist(s) doesn’t mean that corrupt policemen won’t in turn gang rape her again right then and there. it happens. read the book.  how is this happening all over the world? are we simply ignorant to the situation or do we just shrug it off because it’s not right in front of our face? and if these brothels that traffic young girls are torn down, then the owners have to be provided with some other business or form of income  because that’s what it is. it’s a business. geez, so complex.

more than likely, i will continue to blog about this topic. it’s so heavy on my heart and now that my eyes have been opened to the need, i can’t sit back and not act.  and it’s not just this feminist idea of womens’ and girls’ rights; it’s basic HUMAN rights that are being disregarded.  there are so many stories that you need to hear from women and girls around the world. and because i can’t type them all out on my blog, i just want to encourage you to read half the sky.  it will open your eyes to the greatest form of slavery that is taking place today. and if you share this passion, or even if you don’t and still want to chat, i would love to talk with you.

let me leave you w/ a few quotes. sorry if the last one offends you, but it’s truly how some cultures view women around the world…and that can’t be sugar-coated.

“are women human yet? if women were human, would we be a cash crop shipped from thailand in containers into new york’s brothels…? would our genitals be sliced out to “cleanse” us…? when will women be human? when?”
-catherine a. mackinnon

“the mechanism of violence is what destroys women, controls women, diminishes women and keeps women in their so-called place.”
-eve ensler

“women might just have something to contribute to civilization other than their vaginas.”
-christopher buckley

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§ 2 Responses to half the sky

  • AshLee Romines says:

    Alex, this blog is AMAZING!! It’s so encouraging to know that more and more people our age are actually taking an interest in crucial topics like this. I wasn’t sure how much you already know so these are just a few websites about organizations who are doing amazing things to empower women.

    http://brandedphx.com/ (this is a department within the non-profit I help with that’s working in Phoenix to fight sex trafficking)
    http://www.fh.org (this is the non-profit I help with; part of what they do is empower women through savings groups, education and tons more; they also have internships 🙂
    http://www.ijm.org (another great non-profit fighting slavery; food for the hungry has done some collaborative stuff with them and one of the interns from this past summer worked with them)
    http://www.thea21campaign.org/ (I saw the lady who runs this in Los Angeles this summer-amazing woman!! This group works in Europe)

    • alexdroogsma says:

      thanks ashlee! i’ll definitely look into those organizations. that’s awesome that you’ve had so much interaction with some of these people. so encouraging. i’m really trying to do my research and learn about the issues/organizations involved…and thanks for reading!

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