put on your face
know your place
shut up and smile
Have you read Half the Sky? It’s written by award winning journalists who had to tell the stories their publishers weren’t interested in running. Stories about the plight of women across the globe. Stories that were not ‘news’ despite women being roughly half of all the people living on this planet. The stories highlighted to me how very far we are from the things fair-minded citizens have fought for ….forever. From the beginning of time. The book put me in mind of another author’s work, Xinran; The Good Women of China.
And here we are, thousands of years into human existence; fighting for simple human kindness. An agreed creed against injustice. Fighting even for awareness that these things remain to be fought for. Fighting to show the younger generations that these issues are not new. Trying to convince our young ones that each generational wave can build upon the work of generations previously. Are more people all over the world making a noise, speaking out? Is it wishful thinking? Traction is hard fought won. In Science, we have been able to build on the discoveries of others, stand, as Einstein put it ‘on the shoulders of giants’. Perhaps not with regards to climate change, but still. Yet in matters of equity, true cultural advancement; can we, are we even brave enough to carry on the work of people before us?
I don’t know exactly at what point the fight for interhuman respect became a fight between genders, but it did. It might have been when those invading armies destroyed an entire extraordinary culture in Ancient Sumer and with it, the first documented rights of women. It might have been when the industrial revolution and rise of capitalism rendered mothering a non-valuable industry. It might have been the first rape. Or the billionth. At some point, the marginalised, the vulnerable, the consistently downtrodden of the world noticed that most often, the oppressor was male. Stronger, shrewder perhaps, more aggressive. Force triumphing over Fair.
Stop whining, say the modern day alpha males. Stop whining and accept it. It’s just the way of life, the law of the jungle, the status quo -and what about our rights not to have to listen to you whine? So, life’s not fair, swallow it and shut up.
But I can’t keep quiet.
Lately, the burning in my brain about women’s issues has been tearing me up inside. I’ve been shutting up, being a good girl. Not making waves. I’ve been doing that for so long it is making me crazy. Then just the other day, my beautiful friend Chloe who is volunteering in Cambodia, shared a story that broke me. She wrote about a little twelve year old girl from their school who has been abducted for the sex slave trade in Thailand. She thought she was going to be taken to see her Mum. I think of my own twelve year old and my guts twist.
I know that little girl and her even younger sister have been taken to the brothels, because her abduction is the classic m.o of the organised criminals who run these rackets. It has long been documented discussed and dissected by Not For Profit organisations working in the region. Ignored by governments, the media and by people like us, comfortable in our busy workaday lives.
Those little girls don’t have parents who can shout. They don’t have countrymen who can take time away from the graft of survival to search for them. Even if they did, they’d probably end up killed. It’s a one way ticket into the brothels of Thailand. Children are briefly valuable commodities in the sex trade of Thailand; sought by wealthy foreign men taking their criminal sexual preferences to a more permissive political climate. And when those girls are no longer children they become grist for the sex trade mill. And it is not just Thailand. Brothels, even here in New Zealand profit from sex slavery. Each person held captive, ‘just another’ nameless woman, no freedom, no voice.
No one knows me, no one ever will
if I don’t say something, if I just lie still
I saw my friend’s post about those little girls on a day that was full of my own personal challenges. And then I saw a facebook post from Milck, the artist who wrote the stirring anthem sung at many of the women’s marches around the world recently. In Goteburg, women gathered to sing her song in public as the snow fell. It’s a beautiful clip. It made me cry.
I’ve been a blithering mess lately, crying at everything. Feeling the weight of the world’s injustices as if every one is my own. So I decided to take my sensitive and sore soul off Facebook. It hasn’t stopped me feeling upset. It’s not revolutionary, nor a political statement. It’s not helpful to anyone out there struggling. My sensitivities are only useful if I do something with them. I just mention it here to explain it to you if you’ve been looking for me out there. I’m here. And I can’t keep quiet.
Below I have listed a couple of organisations I trust, if you too feel galvanised by your inner distress to do something. Join me. I’m not on Facebook right now, but I am still here. Fighting the stupidity of humans hurting humans by using my voice. Fighting by sending money and goods to the organisations who can help. Fighting by raising my kids to be aware, kind humans. Fighting for myself, by regaining the emotional energy I need to continue the fight.
A one woman riot,
I can’t keep quiet
All lyrics in bold italics are by Milck. You can see her song here:
Shakti has four ethnic women’s refuges in New Zealand. You can donate using the details below, or credit card donations are possible through their website. Donations go towards ensuring safety to vulnerable women and children. Items needed include beds, bed linen, duvets, kitchen ware, groceries, sanitary products, toiletries, etc.
Direct Deposit: Shakti Community Council Inc (Donations)
ANZ Branch, Mt Roskill Branch
Account Number: 01-0183-0243434-03
Helps over 3,000 women a year by offering:
- crisis intervention to women with complex needs
- support, information, advice and referral for emergency housing, women’s refuge, rape counselling, child abuse reporting, abortion, parenting
- links to AWC’s low cost community education programme and counselling
- referral to the right service based on particular needs
Keep abreast of global issues for women.
HOUSE OF HAGAR, Cambodia
Chloe tells me this is absolutely the organisation making a difference for victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia. Immediately after the girls were taken, Chloe got in touch with them and House of Hagar are working with contacts to try to extract the girls and return them home.
HAMLIN FISTULA HOSPITAL, Ethiopia
The kids at our school knit peggy squares for these exceptionally brave women. I urge you to read more about them and their plight and consider donating or helping them in any way you can.