I have been writing on and off for awhile now but not much of it has landed on here. So, l decided a few changes were in order. Firstly, I needed the technology to make writing and publishing to my blog sites faster, hence, the purchase of a large screen tablet. Writing on a small smartphone is not easy when you are on the move and most of what I do is when l am not at home- the few minutes on the train, or sometimes when I am waiting for things. Home is busy and too often things get understandably in the way.
This blog site was created for my serious side but I didn’t feel it was ever really that successful. The stats were small and I had to stop reading about the subjects that saw the creation of this blog- it was just too upsetting. At the same time, I also had to stop working for Tareto Maa- a Kenyan refuge for girls fleeing FGM/early marriage ( sadly for personal reasons), but over the past year, I have been able to take up the reins again. A lot of my friends know that is one of the most important subjects to me.
My other blog site ( onethoughtulwoman ) has been used for some health posts related to food, though not many for the same reasons outlined. I really want this to continue. Above all, I need meaning and purpose as to why I am writing with some clear sense of direction.
So, this site is going to be for general postings and Tareto Maa updates, human rights and any women’s issues, just like before. My onethoughtulwoman site will continue to be for my health posts, including psychological health ( I am now a big fan of Mindfulness), plus the occasional poem and any other creative work.
Writing takes practice and you can become better and quicker the more times you try. Writing is also about the attention to detail, in the form of editing. Fluent writing takes time for me, as I was not blessed with a fine command of English early on in my life. I have to work harder than some but that’s OK and gives me the determination and the drive to succeed in what ever I put my mind to.
To conclude, I just want to write about things that matter, to help people think and to give them information to inform them in their own decision making in their lives. I just want to see more happy people who feel a greater sense of well-being. This is who I am. Come and browse when ever you want to with me.
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.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.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?
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.
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 Government 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 the 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.
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.
Facebook is as popular, if not more popular than twitter or any other social networking site. I know many people who use it, like it and gain great pleasure from it. There are many groups big and small, some typical ones and some quirky ones. People make friends and it seems a great place of enjoyment. People making friends who want to connect.
Causes and concerns are set up as groups, and I recently have been attracted to Facebook by joining a woman’s group with an interest close to my heart.
However, I was horrified beyond belief yesterday when I saw this. A group set up called Hitting Woman. At time of writing it has attracted 65 fans from 24 yesterday afternoon and appears to be growing strong. The picture attached to the group’s page states just what it is: a site that appears to encourage the abuse and violence towards women.
I reported the page immediately. But what the hell is Facebook doing allowing this on here? There appears to be no e-mail contact anywhere to write to the site. I wrote my comments of complaint by clicking report this page, under the title inappropriate content. A standard message flashes up on the screen, that no personal replies will be made.
Ok, Facebook is a big place and it can not be expected to reply to every comment made- perhaps. Yet, this site is still there. I have a feeling it may have been taken off once already to only be put back on again. Other sites such as flickr and Twitter do have an proper vetting system where individuals can have accounts suspended if violations of conduct occur.
I would need to look into this with Facebook. So I need your feedback here and your help. For those of you who know Facebook far better than me, I need to know what we can do to shut this group down and ideally to suspend the accounts of the individuals who have joined.
I realise the problem here that you can pop up with another name and start all over again with these sites, if suspended. Facebook, as with other social sites, need to look into this. There must be something we can do. Or sadly, is this an example of sinister activity that we just have to sit by and can do nothing about???
I have posted comments and links on my wall and feed on Facebook with no response to date. This is another way for me to highlight this appalling little group.
Reviews have been left on the site and I have been tempted to write my own comments which would make people see me in a new light. I think you would be surprised by my language and word usage there. However, I have not done so, as does this not give them the attention they crave? And I don’t think such sick bastards would care two hoots about what I have got to say to them anyway. The only message that would get threw to them is, if women rose up against them and gave them a bloody good hiding such as they would want to give us. Then they might get the message.
So what can be done? I have already said to Facebook that I will be shutting my account down within the week if this is not sorted and will encourage anyone else to do so. I know I have no right to ask anyone to do this but it would be great if people did and tell Facebook just what we think. My one account closure isn’t going to make a scrap of difference to them. But it is my statement to say I won’t participate in a site that allows this. It is my principle here.
Your comments and suggestions please. But most of all your actions are appreciated!
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.
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.