We are compelled to action. One year after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the women who protested his inauguration in the United States still hadn’t forgotten a thing. In January of 2018 we took to the streets for a second time to lift our voices together after living through a year of pretty much what we expected when Trump took office. We accurately predicted that protections for most vulnerable Americans (people in poverty, immigrants, disabled persons, and children to name a few) would be under attack. Some foresaw that we might hear hate-filled vulgarities coming from the president, but I think few expected they would be so frequent. I knew that varieties of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, Islam-phobic, xenophobic hate crimes would rise, but I naively never thought we’d see white nationalists openly chanting Nazi slogans and marching with flaming torches in the U.S.A.
Yet last year saw a positive change as people banded together to support each other. The “Me, Too” movement showed the world through social media how common it is for women to experience sexual harassment and/or abuse. Danica Roem became the first transgender candidate elected to a U.S. state legislature through a smart, local, issue-based campaign in Virginia. We saw judges push back against attempts to ban Muslims from entering our country.
I believe all of these events – the good and the bad – resulted in the energy of the marchers being both undiminished and better organized as we rallied around the theme of “March, Act, Vote!” While the enthusiasm of the women around me in St. Louis was still strong, I sensed a difference in tone this time around. Last year, everywhere I looked (including in the mirror) there were women attending their first major protests ever. Their giddy energy was palpable and contagious. Just about everyone I knew who stayed at home in St. Louis knew at least one person who was flying out to D.C. to protest the inauguration. A feeling of novelty and joy in the event came with the solidarity of so many women expressing their disappointment, anxiety, and downright fear about what the future would hold with a confessed sexual predator like Donald Trump in the White House. It was a transformation of epic proportions.
This year, the marchers around me were just as enthusiastic, but instead of novelty, I sensed an overall air of resolve. Snippets of conversations around me revealed that many marchers had not been idle in the last year. Those involved in Black Lives Matter (a movement to stand against violence and systemic racism towards black people) carried their signs as seasoned veterans after months of tensions with the St. Louis Police Department. Organized advocacy groups like the League of Women Voters and Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America were visibly out to harness this precious protest energy and direct it into registering more voters and taking more actions beyond the event. For me, this was incredibly heartening. My two big fears in 2017 were that all of the energy of mass protests would blow away in the wind without organization OR that the constant shenanigans from the White House would eventually wear down everyone to the point that people were simply accepting a new and horrible normal.
Did 2017 wear us down? Somewhat. Over and over, I hear the word “demoralizing” from my friends, colleagues, and group leaders to describe the past year. But an event highlighting positivity, like the Women’s March in January, goes far to beat back the darkness. An environment like that allows a space for us to draw energy from each other. The night before the march, Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Shaare Emeth Congregation offered these words in her sermon:
“Ever look toward one another. Look for each other and find there – in community – comfort and inspiration in the collective power and strength that we have together to create the world we long to see. The world we know that God is waiting for. The world we owe our children.” The night before the march, she urged us to: “Look, look, look, look…look around. It will be the day we yearn for. Not soon maybe, but it will be.”
I chose to participate in the second Women’s March, but skip the speakers in favor of getting my daughters to their Saturday activities. As I was leaving on the train, I met a woman who was doing exactly the opposite…she skipped the march, but was headed in to hear the speakers. I asked if she wanted to take my sign that said, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” with her. She enthusiastically agreed and as she headed off downtown, I thought about how in that brief interaction with a stranger, two women supported each other to literally carry our message farther. Maybe that’s the way it has to be in real life for moms who are changing the world. We carry the banners for a time and when we need to step back to tend to our kids, we lend our support to those who will carry them for us until we can come back.
On March 24th protesters will once again be out in force in Washington, DC as they participate in the March For Our Lives. Spearheaded by our country’s youth, the march on Washington DC demands that the lives of our children take priority over guns and that legislators ensure that the epidemic of mass shootings in our country be put to an end.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Cindy Levin
You might have noticed we were a bit quiet on our website this summer as we took our annual “Blogcation.” Well, here is what some of us, World Moms, were up to during July and August of 2017!
Tara Bergman, USA
“My family and I took a backpacking trip to an alpine lake in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, USA. It was a lot of work to get everyone on the trail with packs, but we made it to our destination and had the whole lake to ourselves overnight. The birds were chirping until 10pm and started up again around 4am, so I guess we had some company after all.”
Tina Rodriguez, Philippines
“No holidays here in the Philippines now. I’ve been trying to juggle many things like family and home life (including homeschooling the kids), work, advocacies, etc. By God’s grace, I’m surviving! ?
My family and I were even able to squeeze in some bonding time with my parents, which made for many precious moments!”
Ketakandriana Fafitoson, Madagascar
“My kids have just finished school but I don’t know if we will have time to go on the seaside this year (we live in the highlands). The fact is that I am 6 months pregnant now, and still have to travel a lot for my job and my activism…But I will try to manage some time to take them to their favorite place, maybe in early September…If everything goes well”
Tes Silverman, World Voice, USA
“Summer’s was busy for me & my family! My daughter, Shaina, graduated from high school in June, and then my whole family headed down south to Virginia Beach in early July to celebrate my great-aunt’s 100th birthday! What an amazing reunion of aunts, uncles & cousins I haven’t seen in years, and especially for Shaina, who met a lot of them for the first time. My most favorite moment was going up to my great-aunt Pacing (the woman of the day in pink), and after being told who I was, seeing her eyes fly wide open after recognizing me and giving me a big smile. I then moved over so I could introduce her to Shaina, and her response was, “oh so pretty!” It was so moving for me that she recognized me after so many years, and that I had the opportunity to have Shaina & Micah see her again.
That weekend spent with my relatives made me realize how precious life is & how awesome it is to have an extended family. If l live to be 100, I hope to see as much family around me as my great-aunt had. As a result of this weekend, we are now planning to get together again next year, to make sure that the 2nd generation (mine) & 3rd generation of cousins (Shaina’s) keep in touch.
To-wen Tseng, USA
“Currently pregnant with my 2nd child, I had to take some time off earlier this year because of pregnancy complications. Now into 27 weeks, I’m feeling better and trying to catch up at work. I have a new book due exactly on the baby’s due date! Wasn’t aware of the pregnancy when I sign the contract with the publisher. A busy summer for me!”
Founder Jennifer Burden, USA
“We headed to the U.K. and Italy for a month to vacation and catch up with family and friends. Here’s a photo of the girls looking out over the ruins of the Forum in Rome.”
Bessma Bader, Saudi Arabia
Elizabeth Atalay, Managing Editor, USA
“This was an epic summer for us, having both turned 50 this past year, looking forward to our 20th wedding anniversary this fall, and sending our oldest of four kids off to college in the fall inspired us to go big with our summer plans. It was a dream come true for me to travel to Tanzania as a family with Proud African Safaris
, a small Tanzanian owned company that provided a trip of a lifetime. We spent 6 nights in the Serengeti viewing spectacular wildlife, and visited a Masaai village as well as several tribes in the lake Eyasi region. Then spent a few days at the beach in Zanzibar. Soon after our family trip, I did a week long women’s trip to Israel that was incredible. Then as a family we traveled into the path of totality in South Carolina to view the Total Solar Eclipse!”
We are excited to be back, to share the global stories that we have collected and dive into a new season together!
What did you do did this past summer? We’d love to hear!
“Survival of the fittest” is how Patrick Makokoro jokingly described his childhood with a smile, only he wasn’t exactly joking.
A handsome father with a friendly and earnest demeanor, Patrick is an early childhood education activist in Zimbabwe. He came to my community in St. Louis, MO last week on a U.S. media tour to talk about the importance of U.S. support for the Global Partnership for Education. He knows firsthand how it feels to be denied an education. He grew up in poverty as the 8th child in a family of 16 kids. His Darwinian comment about survival describes the competition he felt when he had to scuffle with his siblings for a share out of a big bowl of cornmeal. Despite barely being able to afford school fees, his parents – a gardener and a housekeeper – valued education highly. In fact, the phrase “Education is the key to success” was drummed into Patrick, early on as his parents struggled to give their kids the best opportunities they could.
He took the lesson to heart and was the first child in his family to pass his basic examinations at 16 years old, making him eligible for high school. Full of pride, he felt sure that his father would be proud to see him continue, but unfortunately, his father had to tell him, “I’m sorry, I can’t afford to pay your fees because you have many siblings. If you continue, I won’t be able to pay for your brothers and sisters to go to school.” It was a crushing disappointment. His bitterness broke the relationship with his father for a time and he left home to find his own way.
An opportunity to work with vulnerable children in an orphanage gave him an eye-opening experience that changed the course of his life. As upset as he was about his situation, he was surrounded by children – happy and playing – who had no parents at all and needed far more than he did. He rolled up his sleeves and guided the children to play sports and plant a garden to help with their nutritional needs. He dedicated his life to serving orphans and finding sustainable solutions to support kids like them.
Patrick supported himself through the rest of high school and college while working with other non-profits addressing the plight of Zimbabwe’s children. Time and experience taught him that local resources were often not adequate to respond to shortages in food supplies, medical care, psychological support, and school fees. So, he started his own organization called the Nhaka Foundation to address these needs together. “Nhaka” means inheritance.
“Education is the key to success,” says Patrick echoing his father. “So, if we are to leave any inheritance for children and orphans, it should be an education.”
This year, the Nhaka Foundation is celebrating its 10th anniversary of giving children a healthy foundation and early learning opportunities. Patrick is now an international advocate, traveling as far as the U.S. to share how critical it is for us to continue to support country-led programs investing in children.
Patrick at a meeting with RESULTS St Louis Activists and writers from St. Louis media. Photo credit to RESULTS St. Louis
It’s important that he does come here to tell his story. After all, the U.S is a donor to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), which provides grants to the Nhaka Foundation! Our money is pooled with other countries and distributed by the GPE after rigorous scrutiny. It assures money is not lost to corruption or poor planning. It ensures that we can invest in the highest quality programs that will help the most vulnerable children.
Global Partnership for Education
The coincidence that I met Patrick a week before the primary school graduation of my youngest child was not lost on me. While we celebrate the shining futures of our little ones, most of the parents in our school have no idea what is happening in Zimbabwe, nor the transformative work the GPE does with our tax dollars. Yet, all Americans should know that it is through our action or our inaction, that we impact the fates of millions of children worldwide. When we speak out and demand that our government support the GPE, we change the course of millions of lives from despair to opportunity. When we remain silent, we risk the bright hope of Patrick’s orphans and so many like them.
If you live in a donor country, speak out to your government about the importance of global education and urge them to pledge generously to the GPE for its 2017 replenishment campaign this year. As a World Mom, I want to stand with Patrick and pass on this inheritance of education to every child.
As a World Mom, I want to stand with Patrick and pass on this inheritance of education to every child.
Photo Credits to the Author, RESULTS, Global Partnership for Education
It happened. Again. On February 26, for the second time in a week, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated by a hate crime in the United States…this time in Philadelphia, known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” Headstones were toppled and damaged. Families were outraged. All of this happened alongside five waves of bomb threats toward Jewish community centers (JCC’s) since the American presidential election. If these facts don’t send a chill down your spine, then click on this link – “This is What a JCC Bomb Threat Sounds Like.” It contains a recording of what the people protecting our Jewish children have to put up with on a regular basis, not knowing which threat might be a real explosive in the midst of innocent victims.
The first time an act of vandalism in a Jewish cemetery occurred this week, it was in my own city of St. Louis where members of my husband’s family are buried. Over 150 headstones were knocked over or broken at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. As a Christian, I know that sometimes people in the majority need to see a hate crime as personal before it touches their hearts. I sought to break down that barrier for others by posting about it on Facebook and asking people to comment with what action they would take about this hate crime. Some friends posted supportive comments that comforted me. Yet I was saddened by comments (even from one Jewish person) on other Facebook walls basically saying, “What’s the big deal? It’s a cemetery. Those people are dead.”
The big deal is that these are the memories of loved ones and a sacred space. The big deal is that these are hateful actions anti-Semitic cowards take because they figure the dead can’t come after them. But history shows us that when people are silent, the haters are emboldened and go after living people next.
Sometimes I’m skeptical of social media awareness posts for various causes when they don’t call for specific action, but I do think that they can serve this important purpose: They publicly let people know where you stand. I’m of the opinion that if others don’t know how you feel about racism and hate-crimes, then you probably haven’t said enough.
How can We Speak Out Against Hate Crimes?
I urge everyone to take on one of these actions against hate crimes as it makes sense for you in your country:
- Post on your Facebook about hate crimes in your community, your country, or around the world, so that people know what is happening and that you are against it.
- Write a letter to the editor about it to be published in your local paper, so racists in your community know that their feelings are opposed. Here’s an opinion piece I wrote after Indian-American families were targeted in my neighborhood.
- Tweet or write to the President of the United States (@realDonaldTrump). Let him know that only one statement about hate crimes isn’t enough. His silence is perpetuating these acts and that is not okay. The White House address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20006.
- If you are a U.S. resident, thank your U.S. senators for speaking out against the hate crimes in Jewish cemeteries. On March 7, ALL 100 US Senators signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday asking for “swift action” over repeated bomb threats against Jewish organizations around the country. It is extremely rare for the entire Senate body to send a letter on any topic.
A Silver Lining
To end on a positive note, I am heartened that there are many people who do understand both the enormity of what is happening in America today and the need for people of different faiths and ethnicities to support each other. A Muslim group leapt into action immediately with an on-line fundraiser to help repair the damage with a goal of $20,000. “Through this campaign,” the website read, “we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.” They reached their goal within three hours. They now state that they will donate part of their total, currently $135,316, to the Philadelphia cemetery that was also damaged. An impromptu cleanup crew worked at our cemetery the very next day, including Muslims, Jews, Christians and even U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Pence happened to be in town for a scheduled visit to an area business.
Use their story as inspiration to find your own voice in your own community wherever you are in the world. As the late American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Don’t be silent.
How do you speak up against injustice?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Cindy Levin. Photo: SKDK-TV.
On a summer trip with our American martial arts school, my daughter and I were able to visit a very special place in South Korea. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a beautiful seaside Buddhist temple on the coast of the northeastern portion of the city of Busan.
Most Korean temples are located in the mountains, but this place was striking because of the way it was placed with its dragon and lion statues turned toward a seemingly infinite sea. Imagine meditating in the open air, facing into the sunrise with the vastness of the ocean before you, and the calming sound of waves surrounding you!
As we wound our way up and down stone steps, I was curious to see many small figurines of children crowding the ledges in the surrounding rocks. At first they looked like toys, but there were too many to be random. Our instructor explained that parents left them as tokens of prayer for their children to do well in school. There were even some stuck up on a statue of a dragon leaving me to think, “How in the world did a mom or dad climb way up there?” We also found more permanent statues labeled, “Statue of Buddha for Academic Achievement.”
It was touching to see obvious evidence of parental care in a place dating back to 1376 AD during the Goryeo dynasty. Seeing something so near to my heart as a desire for good education displayed prominently affirmed my belief that – no matter where we live – we want to give our children every chance to live the best lives they can.
As a RESULTS volunteer who advocates against global poverty, I’ve learned the statistics behind what every parent already knows: more school means more opportunity. For each year of school completed, an child’s future wages increase an average of 10 percent. The is even greater for girls. On average, for a girl in a poor country, each additional year of education beyond fourth grade will lead to 20 percent higher wages. On a country level, education is a prerequisite for short- and long-term economic growth. No country has achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without at least 40 percent of adults being able to read and write.
Sadly, 59 million children worldwide don’t have access to school today and even among those children who do make it into a classroom, a staggering global total of 250 million kids – nearly 40 percent of the world’s children of primary school age – can’t read a single sentence. Quality primary education isn’t the only challenge. Sixty-five million adolescents are currently out of secondary school, and over 80 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to preschool.
I’m proud that the U.S. has long been a leader in supporting developing countries as they work to educate their children. But more must be done to increase the effectiveness and impact of this work. For my part, I am asking my U.S. senators to support the Education for All Act (S. 3256). A well-resourced strategy coupled with increased transparency and accountability is needed now to ensure the U.S. government effectively contributes to realizing quality education for children around the world.
I encourage every World Moms Blog reader who lives in the U.S. to also reach out to his or her own senators in support of the Education for All Act. For readers in other countries, find out what your government is doing to promote global education. After all, the United Nation’s Global Goal #4 is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
This is an original post written for World moms Blog by Cindy Levin.
This Sunday, many moms in the United States will be celebrated with crepe paper flowers, homemade artwork, and breakfasts made with love and varying levels of quality control as tradition dictates. No matter how many kids you have or what country you live in, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day from the U.S.!
But I really want to give a shout out to the Supermoms who walk among us. Hats off to the….
Single Working Moms
…who are just as tired as everyone else, but never get to look forward to that break and relief of hearing another set of keys in the door. All responsibilities start and stop with you when a child is sick while you need to work at a job that may or may not be paying you what you are worth.
Moms of Kids With Special Needs…
…who do everything all moms do, but over and over and over. Sometimes while everyone stares because they judge your child is too old for such behavior when they should be in awe of your patience.
Moms Living in Poverty…
…whose lives are full of Either’s and Or’s. You made the tough choices this winter between heat for the house or food for the bellies. Or even when things were going a little better, making the slightly higher class choice…toothpaste or dishsoap?
Moms Who Have Lost a Child…
…who live with the shadows of possibilities that never will be. You have an empty seat at the table and love still in your heart.Whatever your plans are this weekend, you should receive much more thanks from the world than you’re going to get this Sunday. I hope that if our paths cross on Mother’s Day, that I might notice you and give you some more of the respect and love that you deserve. But most of all,
I wish I could tell you that you can be the most powerful among us. You have the stories – if you are ready to share them – that can change minds and change lives to make the world better for your kids or the kids that will come after them.
This might seem like a strange Mother’s Day message, but Mother’s Day in the U.S. throughout the 19th Century was not about pancakes and flowers, but more about peace movements from mothers who lost sons, temperance movements, and local efforts of women to help other mothers learn to properly care for children. It used to be about empowerment instead of recognition. Could it be a bit of both?
To the Supermoms: Life is asking more from you than of many, but don’t let it defeat you. Be strong and speak out whenever you can. I wish I could tell you that you are powerful and have you believe it. Because it’s absolutely true.
This is an original post written for World moms Blog by Cindy Levin.
Do you know a supermom? Maybe it’s you?