Voices of Hope Africa Recognizes the Power of  International Women’s Day

 And concedes that we have a long way to go…

Voices of Hope Africa Team

International Women’s Day has a remarkable history.

Used as rallying point for the women’s labor and suffrage movement in North America and Europe, its beginnings can be traced back to a March 8th, 1857 event in one of the industrial capitals of the world, New York. Female garment workers took to the streets to protest against inhumane working conditions and low wages that made for a dismal working experience. Of course, in a wholly unoriginal manner, the Police quickly dispersed this first protest with, what can be surely described as, unduly harsh measures for the occasion – “measures” that an active citizenry was supposedly protected against in the American constitution.

However, the movement was not snuffed out after a violent beginning –females have continually showed an inner fortitude that even the most aggressively patriarchal forces have had to grudgingly recognize- and the first women’s labor union was the result. Several decades later, in 1908, 15,000 women in New York again marched for better labor and pay practices, but also added on to their list the ending of child labor, and their right to vote, a practice that still seemed too trivial to be brought up in a serious manner by the current legislators of the day.

The doctrine of the time was still that it was rather self-evident that male property owners were the only ones who had the true intellectual capacity to cast an educated vote, “It is how it’s always been, thus it’s how it should continue to be.”

We now know how ludicrous this type of thinking is and what can be done to overcome it, but it can still be found, nevertheless.

In an international move, the concept of the day was first brought up during the 1910 International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen and the delegates in attendance unanimously voted for an International Women’s Day to be held yearly.

From the fervent but humble beginnings of the early 1900s to now, International Women’s Day, and the recognition of women’s talents in science, government, policy, economics, business and many other industries, has experienced incredible growth. The day itself is now a nationally recognized holiday in 27 countries and the United Nations established its acceptance of the day in 1975.  Each year, the UN promotes a different theme. They have ranged from Empowering Women-End Hunger and Poverty to Equal Right, Equal Opportunities: Progress for all.

The 2013 theme is:  “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”

 

 

Sinore’s Story

In 2013, there are still pressing issues in regards to women’s equality and empowerment, and in violence against women. Voices of Hope Africa understands this issue all too well, and it’s why we are not only recognizing this day but urging our fellow global citizens to take an active role in the push back against issues that hinder females, and indeed, societal development.

Central to the needed advocacy effort is the denouncement of the practice of violence against women.

Female Genital Mutilation is such a practice. Furthermore, rather than a strict cultural act, it has a rather ambiguous history in most cultures where it is performed, and in most cases, done against the will of the woman. Again to bring up the incredibly ill-thought, but dangerous phrase, “It is how it’s always been, thus it’s how it should continue to be.”

In regards to a child, there are no cases of FGM where it can be considered “voluntary”.

Touching upon our own project platform, we have been asked why we focus on educating post high school young Maasai women and not the little ones who pull at our heart strings. The reason we focus on young women is because it is our belief that women’s lack of education, empowerment, and economic independence are the most significant factors in perpetuating oppression, poverty, female genital mutilation, and child marriage in the Maasai Tribe of Kenya. Change happens on the local level, within the tribe, and an educated and empowered woman can make that change in a way no international legal legislation could ever hope to.

Last summer 17 young Maasai women completed our Voices of Hope Leadership Training. These young women were selected out of 400+ candidates. All of them had no hope of furthering their education, and were in imminent danger of female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.  They also firmly stated that it was against their will to go through FGM and they came to that conclusion as an individual, rather than by some nebulous outside force. They had all completed high school and had been kept safe as a result of attending boarding schools/rescue centers. Seven of the young women were able to begin college.  The remaining 10 were awaiting Sponsorship.

Unfortunately, one of our girls on the waiting list, Sinore, who is pictured above, did not have enough time. Sinore is no longer waiting. She was forced to go through female genital mutilation and married off shortly after this photo was taken.  We had no means to protect her.

As an orphan, Sinore was viewed as a burden to her extended family, and the dowry/bride price of a few cattle was deemed as a profitable exchange for the life and future of this young Maasai woman. Our hearts ache for Sinore and we are in fear for the other young women who are also waiting for sponsors.   Sponsorship is vital right now.  The lives and future of these young women depend on it.

We ask that you contemplate what today means to you and to become active in changing practices that are harmful to the world.  Start small, make one goal to help, and you will be surprised in what the outcome may be.

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One Response to “Recognizing the Power of International Women’s Day”

  1. Paula Ferrari
    March 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    I am so sad for this lovely young woman that she had to undergo the torture of FGM and now must endure forced “marriage” (which is surely the wrong word). May Sinore gain courage from other young women who have also been forced to undergo FGM but are now standing up against it as a bad practice. I wish Sinore strength to enable her to grow and reach her potential in life. Thank you Voices of Hope for sharing her story, may it inspire all people who read it to sponsor the girls who are waiting. This program has the power to help change these girls lives, and those of future generations.

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