USA: At the #StateofWomen Summit

USA: At the #StateofWomen Summit

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Attendees were asked to arrive prior to the doors opening at 6:30am on Tuesday morning. I arrived at 6:20am, and the colorful line of women’s clothing wrapped for an entire block around the entrance of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. While on line, I met Kinda, a woman originally from Syria and who had been living in the U.S. since 2010.

While wearing a golden colored hijab, Kinda explained that she worked as the regional director for the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), an organization which seeks to inspire a network of young Muslim female leaders to become ambassadors for women in their community in Dallas, Texas. We spoke excitedly about our roles to advance women, which made our wait to get inside the building fly by.

We parted in the crowd once we got to registration, where we were separated by last name. I made my way through the convention center, grabbed breakfast, and even bumped into a fellow World Mom, Lashaun Martin from the Mocha Moms!

To get a good spot, I  headed to the main room and met another woman who was studying to be a human rights lawyer. We joined the women from the Rape Crisis Center of DC at their table. When they told me about the work they did, all I could get out was a big “THANK YOU!” Here is a photo of us:

With women from the DC Rape Crisis Center in Washington, DC for the State of the World Women's Summit on June 15, 2016.

With awesome women from the DC Rape Crisis Center in Washington, DC for the State of the World Women’s Summit on June 14, 2016.

As the crowd was settling down, I saw Kinda, my friend from about all of 30 minutes ago, set her stuff down at a table nearby, and I went over to invite her over to sit with us, and she did.

From June 14th -15th this year women change makers from around the country were all led together by invitation from the White House to attend the first ever United State of Women Summit. Speakers included United States President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Save the Children CEO and President Carolyn Miles, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Oprah and more.

The Violence Against Women Act (check out my post about VAWA on a fellow World Mom,  Another Jennifer’s Blog), equal pay, paid maternity and sick leave, raising the minimum wage, women empowerment, women entrepreneurship. women in politics, LGBT rights, terrorism, poverty, and keeping more girls in school worldwide were main topics of the event.

Introduced by Mikaila, the child entrepreneur behind the now popular Me and the Bees Lemonade, our country’s Commander in Chief took the stage. His first words?

“This is what a feminist looks like!” — US President Barack Obama

He was the only one on stage, and the crowd of over 5,000 women applauded with intensity and whoops of joy.

Jennifer Burden proud to be listening to US President Barack Obama speak live at the State of the World's Women Summit on June 15, 2016.

Jennifer Burden proud to be listening to US President Barack Obama speak live at the State of the World’s Women Summit on June 14, 2016 in Washington, DC.

President Obama gave a speech of unity and inclusion. His message was about a country for everyone, regardless of race, belief, sex, or sexual orientation. He mentioned how his daughters and their millennial counterparts saw the world very differently from how the world is today. His girls think it’s strange to treat people poorly just because they are different. How their generaton thinks it’s weird that there hasn’t been a woman President yet. Or that it’s surprising that women make less pay than men.

He also said that we’re on track for women to achieve equal pay by 2080. 2080??? And that the nation needed to work together to close the gap now.

After his speech I felt like our voices of women across the nation were being valued. I needed to hear that someone cared about equality so passionately. I needed to hear that everyone was accepted.

With news of a systematic race problem being unveiled through the powers of social media in the United States, gun violence, poverty and world terrorism, I knew what the President spoke of wasn’t the full reality today in our country, but what we aimed to be. Dreams of unity and equality that we can make it happen. We WILL get there, but everyone needs to play a role on the team. It gave me hope, and I was quite emotionally moved by hearing his words. They motivated me to try harder.

When I turned around to face the table after he spoke, Kinda could see my teary face. She started walking around the circular table towards me, and I met her half way. We hugged. We were pure strangers just a few hours ago. We hugged the hug that we needed to hug after that speech. A hug that we all belonged. A hug that we were all understood. A hug that it is not only ok, but also safe, to be different from one another. A hug that supporting each other should be our normal first intention and reaction above all else.

Kinda and Jennifer Burden pose for a photo at the State of the World's Women Summit in Washington, DC on June 15th, 2016.

Kinda and Jennifer Burden pose for a photo at the State of the World’s Women Summit in Washington, DC on June 14th, 2016.

This is my America. And I am proud to be a part of it, just one citizen among the many helping to lead it forward in progress. We can all do our part in appreciating our differences and finding ways in which we can work together. For staying positive. For seeing the good in the world, instead of being afraid of what makes us different. For finding what brings us together as humans.

This is where I see my country’s future. This is how I see the world’s future. This is what I want for the world’s children. Freedom. Peace. The ideas are out there, so no doubt it can be achieved. It is possible!

As a part of World Moms Network, we seek to bond together and do our part to help create a world of friendship, peace, acceptance, and understanding. It’s even in our vision statement,

“We envision a world of peace and equality, grounded by our common bond of motherhood.”

We believe it can happen. We’re aiming for it. Join us. Hang out, here, on our website. Sign up for our newsletter. Follow us on social media. Share and like our posts. Comment and share your thoughts on how we can make the world a more peaceful place. Tell us what you’re doing to help achieve these goals from your corner of the world, whether it be a random act of kindness or a major campaign — no step is too small! And we are so interested to know about YOU! This space is for all of us. This project is real. Be a part of our movement — you’re invited, and we’re still just getting started!

This is an original post to World Moms Network by Founder and CEO, Jennifer Burden, in New Jersey, USA. 

Photo credits to the author.

Jennifer Burden

Jennifer Burden is the Founder and CEO of World Moms Network, an award winning website on global motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. World Moms Network writes from over 30 countries, has over 70 contributors and was listed by Forbes as one of the “Best 100 Websites for Women”, named a “must read” by The New York Times, and was recommended by The Times of India. She was also invited to Uganda to view UNICEF’s family health programs with Shot@Life and was previously named a “Global Influencer Fellow” and “Social Media Fellow” by the UN Foundation. Jennifer was invited to the White House twice, including as a nominated "Changemaker" for the State of the World Women Summit. She also participated in the One Campaign’s first AYA Summit on the topic of women and girl empowerment and organized and spoke on an international panel at the World Bank in Washington, DC on the importance of a universal education for all girls. Her writing has been featured by Baby Center, Huffington Post, ONE.org, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life, and The Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists.” She is currently a candidate in Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in the Executive Masters of Public Affairs program, where she hopes to further her study of global policies affecting women and girls. Jennifer can be found on Twitter @JenniferBurden.

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ISRAEL: WE CHANGE

ISRAEL: WE CHANGE

We Change

We change.

It’s insidious. It happens without us even noticing. It’s kind of like how your kids sprout and grow in front of your very eyes yet until someone who hasn’t seen them in a while remarks about how big they’ve gotten you don’t even realize it. It’s easy to miss the change when you watch it happen millimeter by millimeter.

Our priorities change.

I remember myself twenty years ago and I sometimes wonder what the heck I was thinking. Looking back from the vantage point of experience, I can’t even begin to comprehend how much energy I wasted on things that now seem so unimportant to me. For some reason, back then cleaning my house was one of my top priorities. The hours I spent cleaning and terrorizing my family if they made a mess or dragged in any dirt or sand was, in hindsight, quite ridiculous. Instead of spending time with people who are important to me and doing things to enrich my life, I opted to clean even though I couldn’t stand cleaning. (It does seem though that there are days when my husband now secretly wishes I would get bitten by the cleaning bug again.)

Our beliefs change.

As we get older and wiser, we begin to realize that life isn’t black and white anymore. We slowly learn to embrace the uncertainty that is the multicolored rainbow of life. We learn that in order for there to be rules, there needs to be exceptions to the rules. We learn that rules are meant to be bent because after all, life isn’t carved in stone. It’s melded by love and empathy and feelings.

As the years pass our beliefs about right and wrong shift. Our beliefs about what our red lines are changes. Sometimes even our religious beliefs change.

Our reactions change.

I know that now, different things “push my buttons” than they used to. I also know that on good days, even my reaction to things that usually “push my buttons” is wiser and less impulsive than the way my twenty year old self would have reacted. Every good and bad experience we have teaches us new skills. Experience is a persuasive teacher.

Our parenting changes.

OMG how much our parenting changes as the years fly by. I’m a completely different mother now at 46 than I was as a new mother at 20. Back then I had all the answers because I lived in the land of black and white. Today, with 5 kids and 2 daughters-in-law, I’m still making it up as I go because every day brings new challenges and I’m very aware of the fact that I still don’t have all the answers.

My kids have gone through a myriad of experiences, some of which I have never experienced myself. They have volunteered with disabled kids, play sports I never played, play musical instruments that their tone deaf mother only wishes she could. Two of my children have served in the armed forces; they’ve seen places I’ve never been. For the most part, each of my kids has grown up with a different mother, because with every day that passes and with each additional kid I gave birth to, my parenting changed. Sometimes things slipped because of exhaustion, sometimes because I realized that I needed to let go of routines that weren’t working for me or weren’t worth the energy.

We change.

Change is hard but change is good. It means we’re learning, evolving and allowing ourselves the possibility to fail, to be wrong, to not know.

Sometimes we’re afraid of change. We want what we know because we forget that there’s something even better waiting for us around the corner. We don’t need to fear change, we need to learn how to accept our vulnerability and reach out to others for support and guidance.

How am I different now from the 20 year old I used to be? Well aside from the wrinkles, grey hairs and some extra pounds, on most days I know how to ask for help or advice and guidance. I’m also learning that it’s okay to say I don’t know, I’m sorry, no I don’t want to. I believe that it’s okay to take a risk and follow my heart in whatever direction it’s leading me. I’m better off because of changes that have come into my life.

Yes, at times change still scares me but I  know that so far I’ve weathered any change that has come my way and I’m still alive and kicking.

Life by definition is change.
It’s also what makes me the person and the mother I am.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Susie Mayerfeld, our contributor in Israel.

Photo credit to Susie Mayerfeld.

Susie Newday (Israel)

Susie Newday is a happily-married American-born Israeli mother of five. She is an oncology nurse, blogger and avid amateur photographer. Most importantly, Susie is a happily married mother of five amazing kids from age 8-24 and soon to be a mother in law. (Which also makes her a chef, maid, tutor, chauffeur, launderer...) Susie's blog, New Day, New Lesson, is her attempt to help others and herself view the lessons life hands all of us in a positive light. She will also be the first to admit that blogging is great free therapy as well. Susie's hope for the world? Increasing kindness, tolerance and love. You can also follow her Facebook page New Day, New Lesson where she posts her unique photos with quotes as well as gift ideas.

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JAPAN: My Son, My Daughter, and Inequality

JAPAN: My Son, My Daughter, and Inequality

It started out innocently enough. Perhaps because she was the younger child, the second grandchild, her Japanese family just didn’t seem as interested in her as in her older brother.

I thought perhaps since they only had sons, or that my mother-in-law only had brothers, they were not sure how to interact with a small girl.

I suggested things that she liked to do, bring over toys she likes to play with so they could interact. (This resulted in my brother-in-law developing an iron-beads addiction, but had no impact on the grandparents at all.)

Then there were subtle things: talking over her, not listening, not answering when she asked a question. Some people are just like that to children, I thought, though I knew in my heart they hung on every word my son said.

“She is talking, too, let’s listen!” I try to draw attention to her.

Then they joined in the cacophony of voices around us, “Girls don’t sit like that. Girls complain too much.”

“It isn’t only girls,” I try to laugh it off.

We would go their house, and they would put out only one cookie, even though there were two children. “We didn’t think that she would want one.”

I make the children share, or I go to the store for another ice cream or bottle of juice.

She received only half the amount of money at New Years for otoshidama (a cash gift given to children from relatives,) and was specifically told it was because she was a girl. “You must have heard wrong,” said my husband.

When we went home, I made the children pool the money and split it evenly.

Then this year on Children’s Day, we arrived at the in-laws house to find a beautifully wrapped present.

One present.

My heart sank because I knew. I knew that now she would know; that I couldn’t cover it up this time. There was no misunderstanding. This wasn’t a snack brought home on a whim, or an envelope that looked the same on the outside but was different within. This was a gift that had been searched for, lovingly wrapped, put in a place of honor for all to see on a day to honor our children.

But it wasn’t for her.

I saw her eyes dazzle in excitement, dart in confusion, then steel over with resignation. Her big, brown eight-year-old eyes.

She didn’t say anything, she didn’t cry at the injustice, until we were at home.

“Why is he more important than me?” she asked.

The simple truth is that they are both important. The sad truth is that there are people out there who refuse to acknowledge that, who treat these two children that I love equally with all of my heart in a very unequal way.

I wish sometimes they weren’t so close to home.

I can see that it is damaging to have that dynamic in our extended family, against the backdrop of a world that is unkind to women (to put it lightly.)

In the moment, I decide against explaining to my little girl that the cards, in many ways, are stacked against her. Instead I hold her close and tell her that all children are important, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.

Have your children experienced instances of sexism? How do you talk about it at home?

This is an original article by World Mom,  Melanie Oda.

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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WORLD VOICE: Raising White Children When #BlackLivesMatter

WORLD VOICE: Raising White Children When #BlackLivesMatter

The beginning, middle, and end of all conversations about race in my family of origin were that racism was bad and skin color didn’t matter. There’s a story my mother loved to tell: She was reading a children’s book to one of my brothers that asked the question, “Do you know anybody who has a skin color that is different from your own?” and my brother confidently replied that he did not, much to the amazement of my mother. One of her closest friends, a woman my brother saw nearly every day, was black. When my mother pointed this out he said she was silly, but the next day when mom’s friend came over, my brother grabbed her arm, stared at it, and then announced very seriously, “You’re black!”. This story was always told as a punctuation to an argument or conversation about how we’re all born colorblind.

Until I was in my 20s, I believed that this story proved, not only that we’re born colorblind, but that my family and I were not racist. After all, we didn’t even see color! And my mom’s best friend was black! Of course, now I know that a young white male child not seeing color only proves the existence of white privilege. If he’d been walking around this world in black skin, he wouldn’t have the luxury of not noticing skin color as his skin color would have had a profound effect on his experience of the world. (Also, the idea that children do not see color has been completely debunked.)

We do a great disservice to our children when we explain away racism as something that is simply “bad”.  If racism is bad, then people who are racists are bad people, so if you’re a good person, then you can’t be racist. We cannot frame racism as an individual choice rather than a systemic reality. Racism – specifically white supremacy – is the water in which we all swim.

In the wake of yet another police shooting of an unarmed black man here in the United States, I find myself discussing race a lot with my two children.

They are 5 and 2, and the challenge of having these uncomfortable and complex conversations-and answering the myriad of questions that come from them- make me understand why so many white parents stick to explanations that sound an awful lot like the ones I got.

As white folks, we like for things to be tidy. We like for things to be easy.  We have benefitted a long time from binary thought. Wading into the discomfort of naming and facing systemic racist oppression feels hard. There is a term for that: “White Fragility”.

I’ve seen a lot of white parents posting on social media, asking how to discuss racism with their children. I’m not an expert, but I can share what I tell my children.

  1. We are white, which means we have benefited from many unearned and undeserved advantages.
  2. Our experience of the world is greatly influenced by the fact that all of our systems are set up to uphold white supremacy. Our worldview is shaped by our experience of being white. We do not and cannot know what it is to be a person of color.
  3. Since we do not and cannot know the experience of being a person of color, we must listen, pay attention, and believe. We cannot make excuses or sweep things under the rug of good intentions.
  4. We are witnessing with our own eyes and, thanks to the internet and social media, hearing more and more stories that confirm what people of color have been expressing about their experience of the world.
  5. Black lives are in danger (as they have always been). Nobody is questioning or wondering if white lives matter. There does, however, seem to be some disagreement about whether or not black lives matter. So, we need to say, loud and clear, that yes, #blacklivesmatter.
  6. When #blacklivesmatter, (and brown lives, and queer lives, and the lives of all folks who are on the margins due to systemic oppression) then, and only then, will all lives matter.
  7. It is the job of white folks, not people of color, to end white supremacy. It is the job of white folks to educate themselves, and not the job of people of color to educate us.
  8. We are all complicit in racism, systemic oppression, and white supremacy. No amount of good intentions or meaning well will change that. There are a lot of good people who do not realize, or do not want to believe that they are racist. But does a fish know it’s in water? Or is water all it knows, so it can’t even comprehend or imagine any other reality? Racism is the water in which we all swim. We have to choose to see the water. #blacklives depend on it.
This is an original post by Ms. V., in the USA.
Picture Credit: Fibonacci Blue

Ms. V. (South Korea)

Ms. V returned from a 3-year stint in Seoul, South Korea and is now living in the US in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her partner, their two kids, three ferocious felines, and a dog named Avon Barksdale. She grew up all over the US, mostly along the east coast, but lived in New York City longer than anywhere else, so considers NYC “home.” Her love of travel has taken her all over the world and to all but four of the 50 states. Ms. V is contemplative and sacred activist, exploring the intersection of yoga, new monasticism, feminism and social change. She is the co-director and co-founder of Samdhana-Karana Yoga: A Healing Arts Center, a non-profit yoga studio and the spiritual director for Hab Community. While not marveling at her beautiful children, she enjoys reading, cooking, and has dreams of one day sleeping again.

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BELGIUM: Keeping A Secret

BELGIUM: Keeping A Secret

Secret_K10KSecrets. I believe they’re important. Especially for children.

When I think about adults with secrets, I mostly imagine sadness, nasty stuff or crime. Mostly sadness though. Actually, I don’t even know if I have big or little secrets myself. Probably not. I’ll have to think about it.

But a child with a secret, I absolutely love that. It’s touching and a little bit nostalgic. It makes me think about the candy I once hid under our beech tree, savouring one every once in a while, including the black sand it was buried in. My secret treasure…

My two children, they share a secret. The youngest however, age 7, is absolutely terrible at keeping secrets. At Mother’s Day, she has never made anything, especially not for me, and I shouldn’t go looking behind the couch at all. Oh, and it doesn’t have hearts all over it. That kind of terrible. She just adores sharing inside knowledge. And now she has to keep a secret.

Yesterday, she almost told me, while we were driving home from school. It was a school secret, completely fresh and just begging to be shared with the world. Or at least with me. Her big brother was just in time to keep her from giving it away.

When we got home, she whispered she would tell me later, when her brother was not there. Now that was quite a difficult parenting moment for me.

You need to know that I am a terribly curious person. It makes me who I am. I could never be a mail woman. All those closed letters, never knowing what is inside, what the story is behind that stamp, whether it is good news or not: my fingers would itch all the time. At least as a scientist, I can give in to that natural curiosity and the urge to reveal secrets.

That day, I had to grit my teeth and be a mother, not a scientist. I told her she was not allowed to tell me their secret. I explained to her that it is important for siblings to have little secrets, so they learn to trust each other. I did tell her she could tell me the secret if it was about something dangerous or something which didn’t feel right to her.

I ended my little speech by telling her I didn’t want to know their little secret anyway.

She didn’t believe that last bit. This daughter of mine is less naive than I am.

But she did walk away without spilling the secret. I’m not sure which one of us had the hardest time at that.

It has been five weeks and I still don’t know what it was about.

It’s killing me.

How do you feel about your children keeping secrets? Do you think it is important for them or do you fear they will also keep less innocent secrets when they grow up?

This is an original post to World Moms Network by K10K. Photo credit: Lisa M Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

 

K10K

If you ask her about her daytime job, K10K will tell you all about the challenge of studying microbes in extreme environments, going from the deep underground to outer space. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising the Penguin and the Panther, her seven and five year old little rascals. The Penguin grew in her belly, turned out very, very white and wants to become a meteorite examiner, fireman and artist. The Panther grew in her heart, had quite, quite dark skin and wants to become a teacher, mother of thirteen babies and famous musician. Together they provide most of the feed for her blog, The Penguin and The Panther, but they are also the primary cause of why she struggles to find the energy for writing anything lately...

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