Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “human trafficking”

She is Malala and I am Crying

For the last month I have been utterly engrossed in the audio book I Am Malala, the story of an incredibly brave Pakistani girl who stood up to the Taliban for the rights of all girls to have an education. She almost paid for it with her life when at 15 she was shot in the head on a school bus from close range, and even had to endure a smear campaign after she survived.

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On Friday, it was announced that Malala has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with the Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi, who has worked endlessly to save children incarcerated in human trafficking and advocate for their rights. That a Pakistani and an Indian have received the award together is a powerful message. Announcing the prize in Oslo on Friday, the committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, said it was important for “a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism”

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Perhaps the best quote I saw came from Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General:

“With her courage and determination, Malala has shown what terrorists fear most: a girl with a book.”

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Here was my first introduction to Malala and why she inspires me each day to empower people to realize human rights and eradicate poverty in the developing world. There can be no doubt that the common key to all these problems is education and Malala shines as an example to us all.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more novels in the epic fantasy Wycaan Master series. Shalev has also authored three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes and The Accidental Activist. He swears there is a connection. Learn more at: http://www.alonshalev.com.

 

 

Everyone Needs A Passover

Tonight, Jews all over the world will sit around the family table (possibly an extended table), recount the story of how our people were emancipated from slavery and eat a meal full of strange dishes. In case it sounds too hellish – we also drink four cups of wine.

While Others Are opressed, The Matzah Should Be Broken

Passover is all about freedom and, as such, has a universal message. It is difficult to celebrate your own freedom when you know that there are others who are still denied theirs. Though it seems to be happening in faraway lands, the interconnectedness of our world makes this premise inaccurate. Many of the clothes and shoes we wear, perhaps even the fancy electronics we need, are made by children, women and men who are little more than slave. Even close to home, human trafficking is happening in each of our cities.

This makes Passover a challenge. It is bittersweet, like the Hillel sandwich that we will eat (a sweet charoseth mix of fruits and honey together with bitter horseradish between two pieces of matzo), and we must strike a balance, remembering those who still strive for the victory and emancipation that we celebrate while enjoying the family-orientated festival with joy, appreciation and laughter. Here is my offering:

Every year, as Passover approaches, we Jews promise not to buy too much matzo. We have to eat it for a week, we don’t want any left over. And every year as Passover comes to a close, we stare at several unopened boxes that sit on the shelf taunting us.

There are, however, plenty of creative solutions. Don’t believe me? Ask talented singer, Michelle Citrin:

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

What Feminism Means To Me – Marianne Ingheim Rossi

My name is Marianne. I’m 36, half-Danish, half-Norwegian (and these days my heart beats sorrowfully and warmly for the courageous and peace-loving friends I have in Oslo), and I’m a feminist. 

I say the latter with pride because I’m incredibly grateful for the advances of the feminist movement. It has given me rights that I believe everyone – no matter race, religion, gender, or any other classification we can come up with – is entitled to. 

Being Danish, I realize I’m a bit “spoiled”. In Denmark, things like gender equality are a given. Here, feminism has made advances much faster and more easily than in the U.S. (for example, full voting rights five years earlier than in the U.S.).

In recent years, the focus of Danish feminism has been on making women as much a part of the workforce and the government as men are. Great gains have been made in this regard through such policies as free child-care, paid maternity leave, and paid paternity leave. 

In addition, reproductive rights are much further ahead in Denmark than in the U.S. Birth control and early-term abortion are free of charge in Denmark, and where the percentage of teen pregnancies in the U.S. is discouragingly high, in Denmark it is very low.

To me, such advances are what the feminist movement is – or should be – about: concrete steps to equality. Only then, I believe, can we affect a societal change in the framework that defines the feminine. To me, feminism is about rights, not about whether or not you wear a bra, whether or not you dress sexy, whether or not you have children. The point is, you have the right to choose: what you wear, what you do for a living, who you marry etc. 

I embrace my femininity! I’m proud to be a woman, boobs and all! And I don’t care whether you happen to be sexier than me or whether you happen to want children or not. I don’t (want children, that is, or care if you do). To me, feminism is about declaring that the feminine is equal to the masculine – not the same, but equal to it. I don’t have to behave and look like a man to succeed; I am a woman and I shall succeed as a woman, with all the qualities that make me and my fellow women unique (and I should have equal pay!).

And, by the way, just because I’m sexy doesn’t mean I’m sleeping with the boss to get ahead! I can actually be pretty and smart, and I can succeed because I’m smart and I work hard. Period. In Denmark, this is a given, but I sometimes feel that in the U.S., this is still highly questioned. 

We must not forget that in spite of all the advances of feminism in the western world, in many countries, feminism has hardly touched ground. One of the tough challenges we face today is the human trafficking of women and children. 

On the other hand, it is encouraging to see how, in many parts of the world, women are the ones making a change in their communities. We are the ones protesting against the building of dams that will destroy our livelihoods, the ones organizing against oil drilling in rain forests, the ones exposing animal cruelty. I believe this is because it is our natural role as caregivers to affect change. Through our connection with the earth – Mother Nature – and our sense of community we can affect the change needed for the betterment of all living things. Not by imitating men, but by embracing ourselves as powerful women.

Marianne Ingheim Rossi

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