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Nelson

  A  name of power who defeated more than the just the waves of oppression. He rode above the tide of racism that was ugly and dark, as black as the stormy sees submerging a continent.

The guns may sound towards the vast ocean of prejudice but the voice rang out and was undeterred, and the fight was fierce as it was humble, towards the onward journey towards freedom and peace.
And the shoreline came against the backdrop of the sun, shinning upon a people who were blinded by the whiteness of their neighbours. But the white merged with the black, as the shore merges with the sea, because of the name of Nelson. Not Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson but Nelson Mandela. A man of our time that has championed the human rights of a nation and transformed the lives of so many. Who has achieved so much with the sacrifice of his freedom for so long, for the victory of the many he served.
We remember him.
Nelson Mandela. RIP 5th  December 2013.

December 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

International Zero Tolerance Day of FGM, 6th February 2013.

Tareto MAA GIRL It is International Zero Tolerance day of FGM. For this day,I would like to make this short statement for people to think about regarding this subject.

As many of my friends and contacts know on twitter and elsewhere, I am a passionate activist and campaigner to end this extreme violence towards young girls and women. I work for Tareto maa (at http://www.tareto-maa.org ) to assist in the care of currently 104 girls, who live in a refuge in Kilgoris, Kenya .These girls have sought safety and shelter from this form of barbaric mutilation and torture. For those girls in Tareto Maa’s care they have the fortunate advantage, not only to be kept safe, but are given a future by going to school.

Today, I want my readers to think of the thousand of girls who are not so lucky as the ones who live in the care of Tareto Maa. In the UK alone up to 24,000 girls aged 15 and under are at risk of this practice (Home Office, 2012). Here are some current facts and figures about the practice and if you are new to this subject, the World Health Organisation gives an overview here of what FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is and why it is carried out. We often dwell on the physical aspects of this but the psychological trauma is very great and compared to a extreme sexual assault such as rape. The effects of FGM are long lasting and permanent and affect potentially every aspect of a women’s life.

So can we eradicate this practice in this next generation, as is suggested by experts in this field? For me personally I think we may do, but there is still a long way to go. While FGM numbers are reducing within the Kilgoris district where Tareto Maa is actively working, reports of girls from European countries going oversees for “circumcision” are reported to be increasing. Much work in supporting grass-roots intiatives like Tareto Maa is needed as well as promoting alternative rites of practice, such as the work of one organisation Tostan.

So, if this subject has touched you in anyway then go away and find out more and then do what I am trying to do. Do more than just read or write about it. Tareto Maa, UK is actively seeking British people, with internet access, who may want to help us on this subject. However small this help may take, I would personally want to hear from you. So e-mail me at uk@tareto-maa.org and I would be only glad to be in touch. If you are from another country we would still love to hear from you, as we work to support Tareto Maa from other areas of Europe and the USA. So please feel feel to e-mail us for any inforamtion on contact@tareto-maa.org

I could say many more words about this cruel subject, there is so much to say, so much debate but one thing is certain and agreed upon. It has to stop! Will you help us?

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Debate, Empowerment, Equality, Human Rights, Justice, Leglislation, Women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Saville Case. A personal view as to what we should do now as a nation.

So Savile had us all stitched up nicely? The message he sends to me beyond his grave is; be rich and powerful, do good for charity as a cover with access to vulnerable people so society is grateful to you and you can get away with anything. Now we know, as one senior policemen has said in today Times, he effectively groomed the nation. What did we do inspite of the many obvious signs? Simply nothing.

Britain is a strange contradiction. We can be quite obsessed with the need to stop or prevent perverts and paedophiles from invading our society. As a photographer, I am too scared to photograph a child and place it on my flickr stream. In schools we need parental consent for any camera to be let anywhere near a child.  We don’t stop and talk innocently to children in the street  We are CRB checked in every way if we want to be anywhere near children in any official capacity. This later can especially be argued as a totally necessary thing to do. We need to protect children, of course we do.

Yet look what has happened with the Savile case. The gnawing gap that still exists between good intentions and reality. The dismal failures, the mis-handling, the lack of communication, the not being taken seriously. We are today a nation ashamed because in spite of all our policies, procedures and good intentions, he still got away with it. Ok, one could argue, in the 60 and70′s sexual offences and procedures are not what they are now. True, but Savile’s last assault was reported in 2009. This is no excuse or real defence.

Melanie Reid today in The Times writes that an apology, not millions in compensation should be made. That any compensation money should go to good causes, as a better way of healing Savile’s sexual carnage. I can see why she writes this way and can empathize with her to a point. However, I would say, personally, that neither an apology, nor money going anywhere or to anyone is enough, no where near enough.

The Savile case should be a watershed in the way sexual abuse is dealt with in our country, as the Gang Rape of India has been a watershed to the way Indian women are seen and treated in rape and sexual assault. An exposure of these two awful crimes  and what is really to be done about it still remains to be seen.

In Britain’s case, the only fitting justice for the victims is for Britain to ensure the same mistake never ever happens again. To not allow power, whether it is child abuse from the veiled walls of the Catholic Church, to celebrity status, for those who hold influence and prestige to get away with it. No more bungling, no more corruption at higher levels, no more hiding of anyone anywhere. Let’s bring the real paedophiles to justice and let the rest of the nation be less paranoid instead and be left alone. OK, a simplistic view point I know. We can always argue that the cunning sexual predator will always find a way and slip the net. At least then, let not our incompetence and blind-eye turn our attention away from those whose exposure would leave a bad taste. Whose power still takes precedence. The Catholic Church is one example, I am sure my readers can think of many more cases. 

This is the point I wish to make with today’s brief blog. I really do hope the Savile case will be a watershed for Britain and that for the victims’ small shed of comfort at least, this can and WILL NEVER be allowed to happen again.

January 12, 2013 Posted by | Debate, Human Rights, Justice, Leglislation | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Domestic Violence: the cuts in funding of a service

When I was a midwifery student, I decided to write my first assignment, within a public health module, on domestic abuse and the midwife’s role. As this was at Masters level, it required a thorough review of the literature and research available. I found that there was no lack of material to read and critique. There is an overwhelming amout of government documents, legislation, guidelines and pathways of care in place to tackle this subject. This led me further to ask one burning question:

If there is so much in evidence as to what can be done to help reduce domestic violence why are there still so many victims and so much suffering going on? The answer that I gave back to myself was, this must be a funding issue. How much actual cash is put in place to implement these policies? I had seen within my own health-care profession that guidelines, training and pathways are only one part of the picture. The actual “doing” is a lot harder to implement. It all looks fine on paper until you really are trying to change something.

So I was shocked but not really surprised when I read in The Independent, Saturday 3rd March that there is anger that domestic violence spending by this UK, Coalition government is being cut by one third. This is, therefore, the subject of today’s blog when we celebrate International Women’s Day 2012. It is a most urgent and pressing issue.

Refuges are reported to be closing and specialist counselling cut following a 31% reduction in finances available. This ultimately means that more women will have less resources to turn to and consequently may feel forced to stay in abusive relationships when shelter and help is now out of reach. The Independent reports that in the year 2010-2011 400,000 incidents of domestic violence  occured. It also states that on an average day, 230 women were turned away from refuges offering safety due to shortage of accomodation. This is compounded by a withdrawal of legal aid as a result of reductions in the Legal Aid Bill.

Hang on I said to myself. I thought this Governement was all for women-friendly policies. This is surely not the case. I am appauled at these headlines and makes already vulnerable women even more vulnerable and in danger. So anyone who cares enough about this issue, I would strongely urge to take this issue up with their local MP. I shall be certainly be looking into this myself.

Domestic violence has it’s roots in many pots and can not be destroyed simply by money. However, the Government can and should put this at a higher priority since we all know that any breakdown of family life, violence and abuse has a cascading effect on other family members, children, siblings and the people who are abused in such a catastrophic way. Health, social cohesion, the safety of children as a huge priority all are concerns which should centre in the highest priority by a Governemtn who says it wants a fair, stable, prosperous and just society.

I feel the Government is failing it’s vulnerable women and children and also we must not forget the men who may be being abused as well. There are no quick fixes to the issue of domestic abuse but it is a certain false economy and totally irresponsible to not see th need for proper investment in a cancer that effects and causes both short and long term destruction and damage to more than just the actual victims lives.

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Debate, Empowerment, Human Rights, Leglislation, Women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Good Women of China

It’s taken me awhile to finish “The Good Women of China” by Xinran. I thought just now about why it has taken so long, when I read almost a third of it in one day. The reason I gave myself was that my unconscious mind was telling me it could only manage smaller chunks at a time. Such was the power, the tragedy and the compelling pages of unbelievable accounts of inhumanity of men against women, a cruel dictatorship called Communism and deep cultural traditions that filled the pages with compelling tales that had to be told. I am not at all puzzled about why I know so little about the author, simply known as Xinran. Apart from a brief chapter portraying some of her own childhood, She has a son, but that is all that is known about her adult life. No doubt she wants to be kept anonymous for fear of Chinese government persecution. Almost certainly no man is never mentioned in her own relationships. Why would she be encouraged to find one?  Her own journalism over many years had told her over hundreds of stories, noting that when women come into contact with men, invariably bad and terrible things happened, hearts are shattered and lives broken beyond repair.

What I do know, is why at the beginning of this book she recalls that she risked her own life when being mugged of her handbag. She fought off the attacker determined to keep what was in her possession. In her bag was her newly finished manuscript of this book. To have let it go, along with all the women’s lives and tales would have been unthinkable to her. It would have been a further insult and offense to the women she was representing with her own words and theirs.

The Good Women of China is a unforgettable read for anyone concerned about the rights of women against violence, injustice, inequality and fighting for humanity and dignity. It is a collection of short stories about many different types of Chinese women experiences of living and how their lives have shaped and scarred them. How they have been made both weak and strong. These are tales where there are no happy endings. You are left wondering and sometimes hanging in mid-air as to what happened next ,or you sit in silence for a bit thinking before you can dare go on. Chapter two: The Girl Who Kept a Fly as a Pet was for me the most compelling, haunting and numbing. It was the most poignant and moving for me personally. I could say it was the most beautifully written for the most beautiful girl, only this word is so opposite to the pages of the most heart-breaking story I have ever read concerning childhood sexual abuse.

I have been left wanting to know more about China and the Period of the Cultural Revolution, which in history in comparison feels like The Reign of Terror after the French Revolution. It has left me with never wanting to part with this book but not knowing if I could ever read it again. The Observer book critic said it “demands attention” and this is the reason for this blog. Because it does demand as bigger audience as possible.

Xinran came to live in England in 1997,.How she managed to escape Communism I do not know. All that we are told is that she has set up a charity to help women find adoptive children living abroad and for the children living in destitution in China. It is called The Mother’s Bridge of Love. You can find it at www.motherbridge.org

I am glad that I found this book. Actually, it was found for me by my husband and I am truly grateful for the Waterstones assistant who recommended it to him. I would like to go into the shop and find her and tell her what she has allowed me to discover. There is another book by Xinran called “Sky Burial”. That will certainly be a book that will need to be read. I do hope Xinran has found some peace with her work, and that the nightmares of the many tales she has been told can be eased by her labour of love for these people she cares so much about.

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Debate, Empowerment, Equality, Freedom, Human Rights, Justice, Women, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tareto Maa: changing FGM/C practices from within.

 How good it feels, after a period of absence,to write a blog post about something so important to me on International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, 6th February 2011. And how proud I feel to not only write about such a passionate subject of mine but to say I, and others with me, are  doing something concrete to help eradicate this practice.

A year ago, I was privileged to discover a truly grass-roots project, headed by one FGM survivor, a woman named Gladys Kiranto. This blog post is to highlight her work, my own journey in aiding her to fulfill a desire to build a refuge centre for girls fleeing FGM/C and to provide an education for these young people. Activist in this field know full well that we have many papers, documents, treaties and laws all aimed at preventing and erasing FGM/C  but that it still continues unabated because of the ingrained culture of citizens practicing this tradition. We in the west may be criticised for what is seen as evangelical zeal, to stop what we perceive to be this barbaric torture, by imposing our own standards of civilisation from the outside to within these communities. Yet, how do we really know and understand their problems of poverty and of acceptance, their culture and rites over our own desire for human rights.  This is why grass-roots projects such as Tareto Maa, supported by outside finance, will, drive, work and vision helps people from within the culture that embraces FGM to make the transition from the knife to an alternative rite of passage for a young female in Kenya, as one example.

So let me introduce to Tareto Maa and you can find as a start some information here.http://www.tareto-maa.org/

 What has been so successful to date about this project is that there has been a collective will of local people, who have set up this organisation, backed by the community’s church to make this project prosper and grow, yet in no way are they dismissing the Maasai culture of which they are proud. What has been so special for me is to be an accepted part of something which has started small, and now has grown to an extent that Tareto Maa is spilling out from its borders of the Transmara region, Kilgoris and beyond Kenya. People from America, Sweden and other parts of the world are beginning to see the power that is within Tareto Maa and are increasingly becoming part of the bigger picture. The catalyst for this, which has been the power house of lifting such a  grass-roots project to the tree tops has come from Germany, and more centrally Berlin. Supporters met with Gladys Kiranto  last August in Berlin and it was truly memorable as we talked about the future of Tareto.

 The focus of German assistance is from an organisation called betterplace and you can find this here http://www.betterplace.org/organisations/tareto-maa. Betterplace has been the centre of fund collection and project fund-raising and this last October we achieved the 5000 Euros needed to build our rescue shelter to house new girls fleeing FGM and early enforced marriage. There has also been a second big influence which has lit the touch-paper for spreading Tareto Maa globally. That being the micro-finance organisation Kiva.org and the Tareto Maa group set up by my husband. This has brought not only interest but donations too. You can find our Kiva group here.http://www.kiva.org/team/tareto_maa Finally we have a Facebook page here http://www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php?wizard=1#!/group.php?gid=136018319743141 and we communicate our news and fundraising events there. Our plan is to eventually have all these sites under one roof, via a website. and this is in an early stage of development.

Currently, our number of girls have far outstripped the resources we have. Initially 23 girls were housed by Gladys. This year, with our promotion and hard work, we now are looking after over 70 girls. For the Maasai tribe the ” circumcision” season starts in December but this year it arrived earlier and there was a race against time to get the shelter complete. Hindered by heavy rain which made roads impassable to get the raw materials where they needed to be, never-the-less, the shelter was up for the new year and the girls celebrated with a party.

So where do we go from here? Our next push is to create funding via individual child sponsorships so all the girls can go to school. This is a big step but so far we have secured 16 child sponsorships. Education is so important for the child’s future and for her to not only support herself but to help her family. This is where dear READER you can help. Please we need more people to sponsor a girl. The cost in English money is £21 a month or 70 pence per day  If you want to help in the battle against FGM and wish to do something in a direct way, this is what you can do. Also come and join us on any of our groups, or on betterplace as a supporter. Spread the word about us and leave any comments on this blog. All this is very much appreciated. Please leave a comment here if you would like more information re: the child sponsorships and I will contact you personally.

TOGETHER WE CAN HELP ERADICATE FGM. SUPPORT US TODAY AND START MAKING A DIFFERENCE ! THANK YOU.

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Debate, Empowerment, Equality, Freedom, Human Rights, Justice, Women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Silent Sexual Genocide of Females

The 6th February is International Female Genital Mutilation Day and is dedicated to the aboilition of what one survivor has described as vaginal genocide.

Many blog posts today, supporting this day of awareness, will speak out in various tongues all over the world, the terrible statistics of one of the most hideous and silent crimes done to girls and young women in 28 African countries alone and others nations worldwide.

My blog post is aimed at those who have some basic knowledge of the mutilation and torture that FGM is and how there is an aim to see the crime abolished by the next generation- if the practice has any chance of ceasing at all by then.

How can we stop it? How can we change the cultural attitudes and the empowerment of men over women’s bodies? A practice so entrenched in tradition that girls, unless controlled by suppression of their sexuality at this most basic, hideous level,will not be able to marry and have any chance of surviving in their country at all, with honour and acceptance by their own people, both men and women. ( Yes, the women’s attitudes have to change as well).

We have passed International laws aiming to outlaw it by making it a criminal offence. Reports and manifestos are written detailing how FGM should be stopped. There are groups and individuals, survivors of the practice worldwide and NGO’S working tirelessly day and night to stop this practice, with meetings, articles, voices and committees. Strategies, targets and polices are all there. Detailed research giving some idea of the scale is well documented,( though correct figures as to the scale of the problem may never be known), given the difficulties of collecting data out there in rural areas and tribal villages, where deaths are hushed up and suffering quietly hidden away. 

Yet, As I write this post, one girl approx every 15 seconds are having their genitals hacked into, removed, some never to heal. To bleed, to have infections, to develop gangrene and yes, even to die. The survivors can have a life time of injury, of pain and health complications. Go to any FGM website to discover the facts and the misery that embodies FGM, for yourself, in terms of health and mortality.

My own thinking has changed in recent times as I delve more into this sensitive and totally complicated subject. One answer to me seems clear. FGM has to be tackled on the inside, by the people, for the people. You can’t crack a nut with a sledge hammer. It would be easy for “us” the uncut to roller-coaster in and say STOP! You can’t do this. It doesn’t work. Such pressure has been met with a wall of resistance, eg, in the Gambia in 1997. An opinion that “We” the un-cut know nothing about how these people live. What problems they are up against, of poverty, of basic lack of education. Of a status that means that if you are uncut then you will be deemed inferior, unclean, unmarriageable and are stigmatised.

I have read literature over and over about the education of girls being the key, which yes, I agree with in spades , but how can we change the attitudes of The Husband, The African man, The Muslim man, The Chief Elder of the tribe, the Father figure and say?

” You do not need to mutilate your women, rip out their clitoris to subdue and control them. To make them sexually faithful and compliant. They will and can give you so much more without you doing this”

If we are ever to abolish FGM, the political will of all the Governments,where this is practice occurs  have to be on-side. But also, there needs to be  a cultural shift of attitudes of the people whose lives are directly affected by it . That is the mine-field of work that lays ahead. And we are still a long, long way from achieving that goal.

There has been progress with local initiatives at grass-roots level which has seen the change. Alternative rites of passage, where the tradition of the girl reaching maturity can be honoured, without the need for cutting is one example. A softer approach where this subject is raised with sensitivity and care has produced more lasting results.To go into a country and condemn FGM will just fail in the large part. Discussion and help with community projects, healthcare, clean water and a working and committed knowledge of helping these people in other areas of their lives will potentially reap more benefits in the long-run.

 Local women empowered to set up communities where health and living standards in villages can be improved creates the intial focus of change. Local and international charities can facilitate and tap into this work and be seen as a help not as an interference. This is one way of gaining something so vital: trust not condemnation and what can be viewed as potential interference from outsiders.

We must not forget the mutilators themselves. We  see these people as The Enemy but they to can often be victims of circumstance. The mutilators are held in esteem in their communities. These women are often paid, and could be facing extreme poverty themselves.This work may be their main life-line for income. These are women who can be grandmothers and birth attendants whose efforts are not seen as being harmful by some. (However, the mutilated have often a different view on this and rightly so). Their practice is seen as ensuring a women’s  rite of passage to maturity and eventual motherhood. Motherhood is held in high esteem, where a women’s value is measured by her ability to have children. These women feel they are giving a right and just service to their communities, even when the consequences of mutilation is terrifying and life-changing for the girls involved.

I have read initiatives where mutilators are found alternative employment and are encouraged to abandon the practice, when practical and acceptable solutions are found for them. And when their own attitudes to the need for FGM changes but are not imposed on them. We just have to keep working with these people. But the people who need to work with them ideally need to be one of them, who have an in-depth understanding of their daily lives and their principles.

 If men can see  the benefits to themselves, as a result of their women being educated, in better health, by not being mutilated, then their attitudes might begin to change. Women running small businesses with micro-financed loans via Kiva is one example which benefits the whole family.This may be one way of seeing that their status need not be threatened and where their family can prosper with them as the head. That their standing in the community will be increased, if their wives and families can work and improve the family’s prosperity.

I am still not sure how best it is to approach the male thinking over the unneccessary need to control a woman’s fidelity. But I do know that women desperately need good contraception and basic family planning, which is one of the biggest health and human rights needs of women today in the Developing World. I need to research this more and welcome your views.  We need to educate the girls. But we need to educate the boys as well.

Finally, the whole value of a woman’s price and a woman’s life has to be addressed. This violence has to stop. It’s just a question of how, taking all the difficulties into consideration that we can do it. We have to work as a team, to connect, to speak together, to share ideas and to act together, so that the “inside” can change and we can watch, do and share in it’s happening and success.

 At least 480 girls will have been cut by the end of writing and editing this post. How can we stop, just one, two, hundreds, thousands, all of them? This is my mission, my cause, my fight, even to save one. This is why I write and work and will do so forever as long as I can and have a voice.

This is Zero Tolerance Day to Female Genital Mutilation. We can stop it. We must stop it. And today or tomorrow is not soon enough.

February 6, 2010 Posted by | Debate, Empowerment, Equality, Freedom, Human Rights, Justice, Leglislation, Women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Women and the Sky (part three).

This blog’s aim is to give a conclusion to the previous two posts and to re-enforce how much impact reading ” Half the Sky” has had on me. As I stated in part two, once I had read this book, then my feeling was that I had to take some positive action.

This list is what is being done now,with even greater emphasis, and what will be done in the future:

1) It was soon clear, by chapter two, that sponsoring a child would be definite way of lifting, or at least considerably reducing a child’s risk of being sold into sexual slavery. There was no surprises when this was stated as one of the points raised at the book’s end. I have looked at suitable child sponsorship websites and most likely will be choosing Action Aid. My choice of country will be India, where the highest rates of prostitution and child sexual slavery exists. The aim is to have an Indian child sponsorship in place by the end of January at a cost of £15 per month. This will be a firm long-term commitment.

 2) I already had heard of Kiva and have two loans already in place for two women. One lives in Peru and one In Africa. Once the money has been re-paid I will then look at helping another two women.

3) Networking with other people is hugely important. I have forged more links with people, via twitter, WordPress (blog) and Facebook and this has been hugely exciting and rewarding. I recently met with people from FORWARD at Amnesty International London and this was very positive.

4) My strong interest in FGM/C is well-known among my closest friends and contacts. However, I have written very little about it and have been very silent in many ways surrounding this subject. This has been because I felt sometimes embarrassed writing about it, talking about genitalia and circumcision. A very sensitive subject many could find offensive. However, the silence is now off on this and I will be showing more of what I am learning, reading and doing as well as campaigning against it.

5) Finally, my training for a local race in May for my women’s causes goes on - all be it the snow has halted training at the moment.  There may have to be some changes to the races’ aims because of the weather and my own difficulties with training over the last three months. However, the beneficiaries for this effort will be FORWARD and the Women’s Resource Centre UK. There will be a separate blog about the race in the next month.

I have only made five statements here because I intend to fulfill each one of them. I don’t often make a New Year resolution but I made one this year which for me applies to all areas of my life. To set achievable goals that I can do, can stick to, and that I will see through to the end. To work when work needs doing and as well as recreation. 

 With this in mind, I will now get on and work on these. In six months, I will give an update saying what has happened as a result.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Equality, Freedom, Human Rights, Justice, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Women and the Sky ( part two)

A review of the book ” Half The Sky. Turning oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide”.  Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. (2009) USA.

“Leave your heart behind”, I told myself as I was reading chapter six. A particular section I was struggling with was the story you may have read in my earlier blog, the Prologue about Mahabouba.

If anyone dares venture into this book they need two things: first, the ability to desensitize themselves from true horror (that is fact and not fiction), and secondly, a strong and compelling interest in the human rights and dignity of woman, with a desire for change and justice. I met the second criterion easily. The first had to be soon learned, otherwise I would have never got to the end. 

Half the Sky gives you little time for polite introductions. You are transported right at the very start, into the author’s world of grimness. A compelling force of authority on their subjects which hooked me in right from the outset.

The first five chapters are fast and as dark as any Black Hole in space. The vastness of suffering and human rights abuses, involving young girls and women, which is the main focus of the book, has detailed first hand accounts and knowledge which is well argued and presented. In fact, this is what impressed me most about this work. The incredible depth, research and detail with compelling authority  these authors clearly had in their subject areas.

This is no light weight book which can require lazy reading. I think we have well established that fact already. The book, whilst easy to read in its language use, took much of your concentration and thinking. Not only because you became so absorbed in the people stories and lives but you needed to keep up with all the detail of names and events. I sometimes had to re-read certain sections.

In spite of this, the first 100 pages of the 252 was finished by the first evening of introduction. This is a ” can’t put it down book” in all of its awesome content. Those first 100 pages discussed and informed you about the types of violence against women, including sexual violence. Sexual trafficking, prostitution, rape, honour killings and maternal health was a heady and unbelievable cocktail of jaw dropping stuff. I gasped and held my hands to my forehead several times as I tried to comprehend just what I was absorbing from the words on the page.

Other subjects discussed later concentrated on what could be done to help the empowerment and emancipation of these girls and women against the violence committed mainly by men, in a world where a female has no voice and  treated as if they are little more than cattle in a market stall.

Family planning, shamefully lacking and one of the most urgent health needs of women worldwide is addressed. Education- the key to a females future and her best weapon against violence, disease and poverty is discussed in length. Micro-financing, so women could lift themselves out of poverty was another tool, and the each story told was exhilarating and uplifting, in what most readers would view, as an extremely compelling but depressing read.

Female Genital Mutilation, initially is touched upon and I thought it was going no further, to my disappointment. However, in Chapter 13 ” Grassroots and Treetops” it re-emerged with, for me, fresh and enlightening material. An in-depth analysis about how hard this extreme form of violence is to eradicate is explained in a way which totally turned upside down my perception of the subject: how off course I was. How little I really knew of a subject that I thought I had a firm grasp on. For me it was like tearing up the rule book, the thoughts, the arguments and starting all over again. (It would take another blog to explain this more fully).

I wanted to cry at the success stories, like Edna’s hospital, to admire Jane and her 34 million friends and to despair at how the rescued girl from the brothel  saved but then voluntarily returned. Why? Not because she did not want a better life, but unbeknown  to me, before I read the book ,was her addiction to drugs; given initially to break her will and to make her incapable of fighting off  rape and prostitution, which lead her back to her prison of violation.

Anyone reading this book is unlikely not to want to do something at the end. There are four main suggestions about what the reader can do and a whole host of website addresses where you can get more information. Using Kiva to help micro-financing new businesses and sponsoring a child are two important ones suggested.

“Half The Sky” (for me personally) is the best written work on human rights centered around women that I have ever read. No work has ever whipped up my sense of urgency and longing to do something with meaning and purpose in this area. In my next blog- part three, I will be writing about what I intend to do as a result of reading this book. I have enormous respect for the authors, who clearly had put their own safety at risk to visit, speak to women and girls, and to come back and a write a book that so deserved the Pulitzer Prize it received.

Finally, I urge, implore anyone out there who cares enough about the dignity and rights of women to go out with care and  a dare to read this book. You need a strong heart and a hard stomach for the job but this is a one such work that demands a read.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Equality, Freedom, Human Rights, Justice, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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