Dreams v Hopes

December 29, 2012 — Leave a comment

I might not believe in New Year’s resolutions (http://my.telegraph.co.uk/applegidley/expatapple/107/kwanzaa-and-the-new-year/) but I can still have dreams and hopes for the coming year. Dreams would cover magically losing ten pounds without having to deprive myself of wine; hopes cover not only health and happiness for my family and friends, but the hope that girls and women in many countries will have a more respected place in their societies.

“Investing in women improves society as a whole,” says US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and yet the reluctance to educate girls was brought into focus, again, after the Taliban’s cowardly attack on Malala Yousufzai and her fellow students on a bus in Pakistan (http://my.telegraph.co.uk/applegidley/expatapple/327/girls-just-want-to-have/). The fifteen year old now recovering in hospital in England has, among other accolades, been named Teenager of the Year. Not wishing to precipitate further attacks on female students in her hometown she recently begged her government not to rename the school for her.

When news emerged of a young woman brutally gang raped and beaten on a New Delhi bus on December 16th more revulsion was felt around the world. Apart from the wanton cruelty it is almost unbelievable the act was carried out on a public bus, which drove through a number of police checkpoints. The crime sparked outrage in the city and has provoked Prime Minister Singh to avow protection for all India’s women. The 23 year old was being treated for severe internal organ damage at a hospital in Singapore where she subsequently died.

Still in Asia, we learn that the newly elected but second time conservative prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, may be considering rescinding his country’s apology to the Korean and Dutch women coerced into becoming sex slaves for the pleasure of the imperial forces during World War II. In August 1993 Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued a long-awaited apology to the so-called comfort women. To annul such an admission of responsibility, known as the Kono Statement, twenty years later is surely a slap in the face to those subjected to such treatment?

The lot of female foetuses and baby girls is still precarious in some countries where their worth is considered minimal.  A seismic cultural shift in the value and contributions of their country’s women must be seen through all strata of society and governments in order to stop the abortions and infanticide of innocents.

From Asia we move to Africa where yet more unpleasantness is bestowed on women. The Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi, one of the country’s largest, makes a practice of retaining, sometimes three to a bed, mothers unable to pay fees for assistance in delivering their babies. UNICEF might advocate for better maternal and newborn care but this practice puts a whole new spin on that hospital’s touted follow up procedures. Providing healthcare does not come cheap anywhere but how one wonders can the women earn funds if they are incarcerated? Hospital director Lazarus Omondi warns, “We hold you and squeeze you until we get what we can get.” Situated in one of Nairobi’s poorest areas, the Pumwani Hospital is I am sure in a difficult position but perhaps this is not the best policy, and certainly his bedside manner needs gentling. African women are some of the most resilient I have ever met and are, I think, the stitches that bind the continent. David Lamb, author of The Africans described the African woman as “… a person whose physical and spiritual strength is nothing short of remarkable.”

Girls and women are still held captive, used and abused for sex, whether in a cantina in Tegucigalpa or Texas, a brothel in Bangkok or sadly many other places around the world; passports are withheld, ostensibly for safety, by rich families importing house girls from underdeveloped countries who are then held in slavery, and sex education and contraception is denied many in the name of religion.

There are though organisations like iLIVE2LEAD (www.iL2L.org) that train and mentor girls, between the ages of 15 to 19, in countries around the world to be the next generation of leaders. Vice President and Co-founder of the organisation, Joanne Grady Huskey says, “To ignite the energy of young women and to unleash their talents is to start a revolution of new ideas, ideas that ripple through their families, their peers, and their nations.”

And so as this year ends my hope for 2013 is that girls and women around the world, no matter their ethnicity or religion be given the opportunity of an education; may travel freely and safely in the knowledge that crimes against them will be punished fully; and come to realise they are worthy of investment.  That the women of the world, not just Africa, be given the chance to prove they are indeed “nothing short of remarkable.”

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