A Tribute to Womanhood

Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.


Women's History Month

"I'm a woman / Phenomenally / Phenomenal woman, / that's me." --Maya Angelou

Every March is Woman's History Month in the United States.  It is a time for all of us to honor the sacrifices, accomplishments and contributions of women throughout history.  It is time to celebrate the opportunities and dreams given us by generations past. It is time to praise women!  And not just women from the United States...This means women from all over the world.

During this month, this blog  will reflect upon those great women of our past and present who have shaped history.  Each of them embraced, struggled against society and endured hardships while triumphantly pursuing their cause, and in so doing, they have aroused and empowered generations of other women to do the same. But dissimilar and assorted as they were, all of these women had one thing in common. They were true to themselves; they were courageous and willing to fight for their beliefs. These are the women who changed history. 

National Women's History Month has been celebrated in the United States since 1987.


Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression. - Margaret Sanger


Kate Sheppard

She was born in Liverpool, England  in 1847 and is considered the foremost advocate of women's suffrage in New Zealand history. Kate Sheppard  was the leader of New Zealand's suffragette movement.  her persistent lobbying led to a Women's Suffrage Bill being presented to Parliament, and determined agitation under her leadership, led to Women's  suffrage being achieved in 1893 so that all New Zealand women, including Maori women, were the first in the world to be given the vote.  

In 1894, she told  an interviewer in London, 'we asked for the suffrage, not on the grounds that it would help us to advance social and moral reforms, but as an act of justice.' in 1893.  Women in Australia would not gain suffrage until 1902, in the United Kingdom not until 1918 for women over 30, and in the United States, not until 1920. 

 Kate  died at her home on 13 July 1934, and was buried in Addington cemetery with her mother, a brother and a sister. The Christchurch Times
reported her death in simple appreciation: 'A great woman has gone, whose name will remain an inspiration to the daughters of New Zealand while our history endures.'

After the  battle for universal suffrage was finally won in 1893,she continued to work for women’s progress, helping to establish the National Council of Women and becoming its first president.  To her belongs much of the credit for advancing the rights of New Zealand women.  Kate was a source of inspiration to suffragists, both in New Zealand and throughout the world.


Restrictions Proposed for Afghan Women's Shelters

The Ministry of Justice of the Afghan government is considering a draft resolution on Women's Protection Centers allow it to take over management of the shelters and require women who are fleeing domestic violence situations to appear before and eight person government panel before obtaining shelter. Under this new regulation, the shelters, which are currently funded by international organizations, Western governments, and individual donors, would be placed under the control of the government. In fact, this would most like result in the closure of some of the only 14 shelters active today.

Not only will this committee will determine whether women should be admitted to a shelter, jailed (yes, jailed) or returned to their families. If admitted to the shelter, women would then be required to submit to compulsory forensic examinations, which could include a virginity test. Such examinations could be traumatic for women especially since there are only limited female forensics. Moreover, women could be expelled from the shelter if their families requested that they return.

Women's rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Women for Afghan Women and the Afghan Human Rights Commission, have expressed concern that the new laws would deter vulnerable women and girls from seeking necessary protections and shelter. Personally, I see know protection for women at all. It stymies me that they would even think of placing a woman in jail when she is a victim. I mean, does it ever end?


Stop Honor Killing

Honor Killing and Honor Crime involves violence against women and girls including such acts as beating, battering, and killing by a family member or members of a family who believe that the woman has brought dishonor upon the family.    A woman is usually targeted for refusing to go along with an arranged marriage, being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce (even from an abusive husband), or committing adultery or fornication. 

These sexual indiscretions can range from something as simple as talking to a man without permission  to falling victim to rape.  This so-called loss of a woman's honor is believed to particularly shame her male relatives since women embody the honor of men whose property they are said to be.  The male feels no shame or remorse for committing the act of murder because he has convinced himself that killing his sister or his daughter deserved it.  The traditional wisdom is that an unchaste woman deserves to die. 

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women are murdered by family members each year in the name of honor. It's difficult to get exact numbers on the phenomenon because most of the murders  go unreported, the perpetrators unpunished, and the concept of family honor justifies the act in the eyes of some societies.

In  Honor Killings known as karo-kari, women have been shot, burned to death, or hacked into pieces.  There is also a gruesome tradition in some cultures when brothers kill their sisters to salvage the family's honor.  For example, in Amman, Jordan, a man stabbed his older sister to death for disgracing the family with her sexual promiscuity.  Another Jordanian man stabbed his sister 25 times because she married an Egyptian against her family's wishes; she was 8 months pregnant at the time.  This week, a 14 year old Pakistanian girl was allegedly killed  by her family for refusing to marry a man they proposed, and in Jaipur, a man slashed his sister's throat because she had an extra-marital affair. On November 2, 2009,
Noor Faleh Almaleki was murdered in Arizona by her own father, Faleh Almaleki, because she was too Westernized. Noor died from the injuries she received when her father brutally mowed her down with his car.

Honor Killings are not exclusively a Muslim phenomenom; in fact, they are found all over Europe and even here in the United States...although not as in Muslim countries. UNICEF has reported that in India, more than 5,000 brides are killed annually because their marriage dowries are considered insufficient. 

There is nothing in the Koran, the book of basic Islamic teachings, that permits or sanctions honor killings. However, the view of women as property with no rights of their own is deeply rooted in Islamic culture.--Tahira Shahid Khan, a professor specializing in Women's issues at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan



Emotional Abuse and Children

There is no doubt that emotional abuse can be as damaging as actual physical abuse, and many times this abuse is inflicted on children by the parents. This is the worst kind of abuse because while a child is small, and even into their teenage years, it is almost impossible to escape the wrath of the parent unless the child leaves home.  I know that was my situation.  My mom was verbally abusive to me; she called me the worst kind of names and eventually, I was forced to leave the house...but not before she had beaten me down to the point where I really believed that I was never going to amount to anything.

Leaving the home didn't do much to rectify the situation because the damage had already been done. I literally had no self-esteem and drew men into my life who took full advantage of the vulnerable young woman I had become.  All I wanted was love, but it seems that all I got was further abuse.  This is because we draw into our lives that which we already know.
Sadly, the long-term effects of emotional abuse can scar the child for the rest of their lives unless they seek counseling and therapy.

As adults, it is important to recognize the signs of emotional trauma and abuse. For those of us who have lived through it, this might be easy to see; for others, there are certain things to look for.  To begin with, the parent or parents will choose one particular child to use as their scapegoat. This child will be the one who has to put up with all of the  parents criticism; many times this child is blamed for everything that goes wrong in the parent's life. 

In addition, this child may have to listen to the parent calling them names, telling them they will never amount to anything, even go as far as calling their own child ugly, fat, stupid etc.  As an only child, I got it all...all the anger directed at me.  My mom's favorite words to me were, "You're going to end up a fat old drunk like your father."   Is it any wonder that I had my first drink at age 14?  Or that it took me so many years to come into recovery?  After all, isn't this what my mom had told me I would be?  Hence, the long line of abusers, addicts, gamblers, etc.  Thankfully, I found recovery 20 years ago and with it, I learned that I wasn't that fat old drunk. I never was.  But, there were so many years in between, so many years of abuse that didn't have to be.

The following signs that children may be being mistreated:
  • Learning problems that cannot be explained
  • No adult supervision
  • Withdrawal from others
  • No desire to go home after school or other activities
  • Fearfulness, as though waiting for something bad to happen
  • Changes in school performance or behavior
  • Has untreated medical conditions
So, what does one do when the signs have been identified?  I believe that first need to confront the parent even if you are afraid of the
consequences. Perhaps they will welcome someone to talk to, and if not, the heck with them.  The child is the one who is important in this case. You may want to talk to a school counselor. The counselor can give you advice on how to further cope with the terrible situation.  
If the abuse is extreme, it may be time to confide with a close family friend or relative to possibly make arrangements for the child to be removed from the home. It is also important to contact child protective services.  I know that in some states, especially here in the city, they have a horrible reputation, but if one allows them to, they WILL help.  I have a client whose child was removed due to drug use in the home, and they have helped her to seek treatment, further her education, and now are helping her find appropriate housing for herself and the child.

Emotional abuse is a horrible way to live. I know from experience; it can literally eat you alive. It may take many years to overcome your trauma, and then again, sadly, you may never get over it. But, we have obligation, an obligation to save other children from what we have experienced.  If you see a child who is obviously in pain, remember the pain you felt, and reach out to help.  You will be saving that child from a lifetime of pain and abuse.