World Voice: Social Good Summit + UNGA: Education is Key for #2030NOW

World Voice: Social Good Summit + UNGA: Education is Key for #2030NOW

Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; former Syrian refugee

Muzoon Almellehan, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador; former Syrian refugee

For the past three years, I have attended the Social Good Summit in September and have always been excited to hear speakers address issues that deal with SDG’(Sustainable Development Goals). This year’s speakers did not disappoint. In addition, I was invited to be a part of the SDG Media Zone during the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) in the same week, where media influencers and high-level delegates from around the world came together to address the global problems facing us today.

With celebrities like Aasif Mandvi speaking on the fairness of media when covering politics and Whoopi Goldberg, whose involvement with the AIDS Foundation in collaboration with Quinn Tivey, Elizabeth Taylor’s grandson, there was no shortage of inspiring changemakers whose goal was to further the conversation of the SDG’s for #2030NOW; but of those that I heard, one speaker made the biggest impact on me.

Muzoon Almellehan is the youngest Syrian refugee who changed her unimaginable circumstances to one of inspiration. She was 14 when her life was upended and had to escape to Jordan with her family to escape the war. For most children, the thought of starting a new life in a different country, let alone a refugee camp, would be daunting, but for Muzoon, it was more than that; she had to leave the school that she considered her second home.

Facing the reality that she couldn’t go back to Syria, she decided to pursue the one thing that the war couldn’t take away from her: education. Relieved to find out that the refugee camps in Jordan offered education to children, she dedicated all her energy to continue her learning. It was during her stay at two refugee camps in Jordan that made her realize the impact she could make for her community. She used her voice to raise awareness of the importance of education for children, especially for girls. Muzoon knew too well that the fate of young girls was bleak since her community believed early marriage was the only way to protect girls. She made it her mission to convince organizations in the refugee camps that education was the way to break the cycle of poverty and traditions that threaten the safety and future of girls.

Her commitment to bringing SDG 4 (Education) to the forefront of the Social Good Summit speaks volumes. Muzoon is not content in spreading the value of educating girls only in her community, but to the rest of the world. It is her passion towards education that has earned her the distinction of being the youngest UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

While I was not a refugee, like Muzoon, my family came to the United States to escape a Philippine dictatorship when I was 10 years old. Before we left, I was lucky to have been taught English as my first language by two aunts who were teachers before the national language, Tagalog. Like Muzoon, I had to leave my home, friends, and school and start over. My family had to rebuild our lives in a different country, but the one thing that was never compromised was my education. I didn’t realize how much I would be grateful for learning English at an early age because it made me feel like I belonged, even though I looked different.

My education has allowed me to pursue a career that I love, which may not have happened had we not left the Philippines. Now, as a Mom of an eighteen-year-old woman, I am so grateful that she will not have to fight to get an education and pursue her dreams, unlike girls in countries whose education is suppressed, thus affecting their future.

Muzoon’s commitment to implement SDG 4 (Education) for everyone is inspiring and should be heeded as a wake-up call. Education makes it possible for anyone to dream big for themselves and their communities. Her parting words say it best: “Even if we are young, even if we have challenges in our lives, we really can make a change. Yes, life is difficult, yes we face difficulties like war, conflict, poverty, but when we believe in ourselves, and when we believe that we are strong enough to make a change, we will make this change and we can actually make a difference in this world. No matter who we are, no matter where we are and no matter how old we are. Just remember that we are all humans, and at the end, we have the same feelings and same rights. So let’s be one and let’s come together for making our world much better”.  

I, for one, am ready to join her mission of bringing education to every single person.

How about you?

 

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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World Voice: They Just Shine

World Voice: They Just Shine

My 5-year old son has a new and urgent interest in Star Wars. It’s fascinating to listen to the connections he is making between the current political climate in the United States and these iconic films that explore themes of power, justice, friendship, love, transcendence, and redemption. Indeed, all very relevant themes for these times.

It’s been only a few months of protest marches, phone calls to representatives, standing up and speaking out, and I’m already aware of impending exhaustion. The question of how to leverage all of my unearned and undeserved advantages to resist ongoing oppression and exploitation while also caring for myself, my family, and my work has loomed large in my heart and mind.

Looming large, too, is a desire to model for my children a sustainable way to use my gifts and talents in service of justice, peace, and love. And, as often happens when I am worrying about how to teach or model something to or for my children, I am humbly reminded that the opposite is happening. As the wise Yoda says: “Truly wonderful the mind of a child is.”

As my son talks to me about Star Wars and how it relates to the world as he sees it, he’s not focused on the battles, but rather on the stories of transformation. He’s interested in how The Force works within people, moving them towards the light or the darkness. In short, he’s curious about and open to the ever-present potential for change – in individuals, systems, and galaxies far, far away.

In our galaxy, many Christians have just celebrated Easter and are now in the 50-day period of Eastertide, a time to celebrate new beginnings, second chances, and the power that love has over destruction. Every year around this time the following quote pops up somewhere: “We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.” (Dwight L. Moody)

This Eastertide I’m thinking about what it looks like to “just shine.” And I already know that it looks a lot like how my son approaches the world: with curiosity, joy, hope, and faith in the possibility of transformation and the power of love. And it’s this orientation towards both the challenges of these times and life in general that can be a guiding principle in knowing how to move forward – what to do, how to show up, and when to rest. As the gospel of Star Wars reminds us: “The light…it’s always been there. It will guide you.”

 

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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World Voice: Indian Comic Book Breaks Stigma on Menstruation

World Voice: Indian Comic Book Breaks Stigma on Menstruation

 

Do you remember when you had your first period? Did you know what to do? Did you have someone to talk to about what menstruation was? In India, the idea of menstruation has been a taboo subject until one woman decided to tackle it head on.

Aditi Gupta had her first period when she was 12, but was told to keep it a secret. Why? In India, menstruation is seen as taboo and thought of as something that shouldn’t be discussed with anyone. The issue of menstruation has often created a stigma around it, especially in rural communities. With fear of being ostracized for something they can’t control, Gupta decided that there had to be a way to take away the shame and empower girls to speak about menstruation freely.

With the help of her husband Tuhin Paul, they created Menstrupedia in 2012, a website that outlines the physical and emotional changes that girls go through, during menstruation, as well as answering questions that girls wouldn’t ask anyone else for fear of retaliation.

While Menstrupedia was a good first step in learning about menstruation, it wasn’t enough to tackle the ongoing stigma that girls and women go through during their cycle. This stigma brings about isolation for millions of girls who don’t understand how to get past an age old tradition that shames them for being seen as impure. In order to bring more awareness of this issue, Gupta & Paul created a Menstrupedia comic book that considerably helps girls be more informed on it.

The comic book features four main characters who talk about menstruation when one of the characters gets her period.  Through dialogue and illustration of the female anatomy, the subject is explained in detail, ensuring that girls from ages nine and above can understand the information. In addition, the message they want to spread is one of inclusion, not shame.

My first encounter with menstruation at twelve was confusing and frustrating. I was away from home and when I realized that I was going through it, I had no clue what was going on with my body. My mother never prepared me for what to expect with regard to menstruation. I was on vacation at my aunt’s home and in midst of playing with my cousins when I started to feel some discharge staining my shorts. Horrified and scared because I had no idea why I was bleeding, I ran to the bathroom and from behind closed doors, was informed by my aunt that I was menstruating. I was never told by my mother about this radical change in my body and thought there was something wrong with me. Fortunately, my aunt made sure to educate me about menstruation and future bodily changes I would go through during puberty by telling me about her experience.

It was not uncommon for my mother to withhold information about menstruation, since menstrual hygiene was never discussed in her family, and especially in public. In addition, awareness of menstruation was not supported because it was seen as a “woman’s problem”.  

Education plays a big part in spreading awareness about this issue, but unfortunately, age-old traditions play just as big a part in how girls are perceived when they go through puberty. While traditions should be respected, it should never be at the cost of taking away a girl’s right to be educated about her body. Gupta’s comic book is a great way of educating girls in India on menstrual hygiene. In addition, it empowers them to take control over their bodies and not be shamed for what is happening to their physical well-being naturally.

To see the original article regarding this post, click here.

How is menstruation handled in your country?

Pic Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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WORLD VOICE: Marching On Washington For All Women and Girls

“No hate. No fear. Everyone is welcome here.”

The words were chanted by women, men and children around me as I marched past the Washington Monument with 499,999 other people on Saturday in Washington D.C. A band played ahead of us, giving me a little extra pep in my step despite a churning stomach and a feeling of overwhelm from being in such a large crowd. Thousands of colorful signs – literally and figuratively – brightened the otherwise gray day.

I was with my good friend, Beth. The day after the American presidential election we declared that if we had the opportunity to raise our voices in Washington for women and girls, we would. We didn’t realize the time would come so quickly.

On Friday morning, we hopped in a car in Maine and drove to Delaware, where we stayed with Beth’s friend, spotting fellow marchers along our route. On Saturday morning we drove to a Maryland Metro station and waited two hours to get onto a train. We wore “pussyhats” and soaked every moment in, including a Metro transit policeman asking to try on a fellow marcher’s hat. There were photo opportunities and conversations and lots of anticipation. No one complained.

Once on the platform, a woman with a megaphone gave us the ground rules for the train to ensure our safety. Though she was working and dealing with an amazing amount of people, she smiled and thanked us for coming. Before the train arrived she asked us, “Who run the world?” We replied, “We do!” And we were off.

The train was full, but the Metro station in D.C. was even more packed. Wall to wall people, mostly women, were patiently waiting to exit the station onto the streets.

Chants of “keep hope alive” and “this is what democracy looks like” enveloped the station.

A rendition of “This Land is Your Land” spontaneously broke out. We were crammed like sardines with no place to go and happy as could be. When we passed a Metro worker, we made sure to thank him.

The “march” started well before anyone walked towards the White House. When we peacefully made our way out of the station, the chants continued as we made our way to Independence Avenue. Signs and pink hats were everywhere. People walked the streets while others lined them simply observing. There were people as far as the eye could see. People of all ages, genders, colors and ethnicities. It was incredible.

Beth and I made our way to Independence Avenue in a sea of people. When we stopped, we could barely move. But the energy was positive and the crowd peaceful. We found an alcove and listened to some of the speakers. We heard Alicia Keys and smiled as a little girl peaked around the wall to see the big screen behind the crowd, standing close to her mom.

When we started to collectively march towards the White House, I began to feel the importance of the day. It was historic and powerful and filled me with hope.

Though the movement was slow, it gave us time to read signs, chant some of our beliefs and soak it all in. Beth and I took a selfie by the Washington Monument with a “We the People” sign in the background.

After the election, I had talked to my sons about how we would use our voice and stand up for our fundamental beliefs if we felt the need. That even if we don’t agree with our new president, we should allow him to lead while also making sure he understands what is important to us. Like I’ve said here in the past, “As moms, it’s our job to show our kids how to be kind and tolerant of others while also knowing when to use our voice to stand up for what we believe in.”

Saturday wasn’t about protesting. Not for me and Beth. It was about making our voice heard for women and girls everywhere. For my boys, who I hope will be feminists in their own rights. It was about making sure women’s rights are seen as human rights. With so many marches for women around America and the world, I hope our leaders are listening.

What message do you hope we sent with the Women’s Marches? 

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Jennifer Iacovelli the author of Simple Giving.

Jennifer Iacovelli

Jennifer Iacovelli is a writer, speaker and nonprofit professional. Based in Brunswick, Maine, she’s a proud single mom of two boys and one Siberian husky.  Jennifer is the author of the Another Jennifer blog and creator of the Simple Giving Lab. Jennifer is also a contributing author of the book The Mother Of All Meltdowns. Her work has been featured on GOODBlogHerUSAID ImpactFeed the Future and the PSI Impact blog. Her latest book, Simple Giving: Easy Ways to Give Every Day, is available everywhere. Her passions are writing, philanthropy, her awesome kids and bacon, though not necessarily in that order.

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Photo Blog of World Moms At Women’s Marches Around the World

Photo Blog of World Moms At Women’s Marches Around the World

 

World Moms were out in force on Saturday, January 21st, 2017 at Women’s Marches all around the world. Here are a few of the pictures of a day of global solidarity. The connection of women at these marches are what we try to do on a virtual level here at World Moms Network every day!

Where we were:

Washington, DC

Managing editor, Elizabeth Atalay, and contributor, Jennifer Iachovelli were in Washington, DC.

West Palm Beach, Florida

Social Media Editor, Nicole Morgan, was at a march with her mother and daughters in Florida.

St. Louis, Missouri

“My dream is to capture this energy of the moment and transform it into action. If we can launch an unprecedented movement of citizen advocacy and hard work to elect candidates who believe in these values, we will truly have succeeded today.” – Editor, Cindy Levin

Thank you for marching with a #WorldMoms sign, Cindy!

New York City

“My aunt and mom (right). My mom said she marched before I was born and can’t believe she had to do it again.” – Social Media Editor, Sarah Hughes

“Nasty Women Arise! I am marching for my daughter and countless girls and women globally who don’t have the freedom to exercise their rights!” — Contributor, Tes Silverman #worldmoms #womensmarchnyc

Nairobi, Kenya

Our editor, Tara Wambugu, marched in Wangari Mathai’s Karura Forest.

 

London, England

We also proudly share this interview with former World Moms Network contributor, Sophie Walker, from Saturday. Sophie is now the head of the Women’s Equality party in England and marched in London. We’re so proud of you, Sophie, for sticking up for women!

 

Check in tomorrow on the blog for a detailed account of the Washington DC march! To see more photos from Women’s Marches around the world check out this New York Times article! There is no doubt, we are stronger together.

Did you attend a march on the 21st? If so, where?

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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WORLD VOICE: “Leftover Women” in China Fight Back

Photo Credit Wikipedia commons: kanegen kto288 (talk)

Are you a single woman currently enmeshed in the dating scene? Do you find it easy or difficult to find someone to date because of your success or independence? Being a single, independent woman should not be seen as a disadvantage, but in China, women are being targeted for not conforming to what’s seen as part of their tradition.

A recent advertisement has been circulating in China where a woman who may still be single after the age of 25 is labeled as a “Sheng-nu” or “leftover woman”. It is believed that women who have not secured a marriage before a certain age are not as favored by prospective suitors. Those who have been “lucky” enough to be matched are considered to have their future secured, unlike these women.

In this day and age, dating in any culture can be challenging. Finding the right person to connect with takes time and commitment, and should not be forced. The video in question shows how these women are pressured by their parents, going so far as listing profiles of their daughters at a Marriage Market in Shanghai. Shanghai’s Marriage Market at People’s Park has been around since 2004 and has been widely used by parents to find matches for their daughters whom they believe are past their prime. While the Market also lists profiles of men, it is those of women that have raised the alarm to fight back.

The advertisement is meant to bring awareness to the issue of women being discriminated against for not wanting to be part of what has been a tradition in China for many years. Part of the hold on this tradition is the thought that marriage is seen as the ultimate success of increasing one’s familial line. Any delineation from it is seen as turning away from one’s culture. Another reason is that women are seen as unable to fend for themselves, and need a man to support not just her, but her family as well. One heartbreaking segment is of a woman who sits by silently while her mother speaks about the difficulty of finding a mate for her average-looking daughter. Or a father saying that it would bring him heart disease if his daughter couldn’t find “the one” because she’s too picky.

While the idea of finding a mate in any culture is part of the norm, finding one because of a society’s view on unmarried women is subject for concern. The objective of being married off becomes the focus, instead of what they really want for themselves. This is happening even in this modern culture in China, where women work and are able to provide for their families

Shouldn’t women be acknowledged and supported for having the courage to say “no” to a tradition that’s forced upon them by their family and society?

Instead, so many women are caught between a rock and a hard place. To refuse to be matched by their parents would be the ultimate disrespect, but to acquiesce to an age-old tradition may only bring unhappiness.

The women in this advertisement do fight back by letting their parents know via video that they, too, want marriage, but on their own terms. They ask for support instead of disapproval for their success and independence.

As someone who grew up with strict parents, dating was nonexistent for me until I was in college. While I didn’t agree with my parents’ rules about dating then, I appreciate them now. Dating in my twenties gave me the opportunity not just to find the right person right for me, but know what I wanted in life.

The women in this advertisement may initially be seen as victims, but their desire to speak out against being labeled and let others know they deserve to be happy, make them worth remembering.

To see the video regarding this article, clock below:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/leftover-women-in-china-emotional-advert-challenges-the-pressure-on-single-women-to-get-married-a6980291.html

This is an original post written by Tes Silverman for World Moms Network.

What do women in your culture think about marriage by a certain age?

Photo Credit Wikipedia commons: Traditional Chinese Wedding Ceremony by kanegen kto288 (talk)

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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