Category Archives: gender equality

i named her remington, he named her malala

director’s note: please join thinkpeace girls and watch the commercial-free television premier of He Named Me Malala on the National Geographic channel, Monday, February 29th at 8pm/7C. We’ll be live tweeting about actions you can take to stand up for girls worldwide. #imagine

YouTube Preview Image

On July 12, 1997 I looked into my daughter’s eyes for the first time and was filled with a love deeper than I had ever known and so much hope for her future. I named her Remington, a strong Scottish family name that I knew suited her. It wasn’t super feminine or decisively masculine. To me she was a gladiator, determined at birth to fight for what is right and to protect others. I just knew. 7,748 miles away on the same day another gladiator was born. Her father looked into her eyes and felt the same rush of love and hope. He named her Malala, after another girl who had dared to speak out. My daughter was a blue-eyed blonde, his was a brown-eyed brunette. Both were born in popular locations, Remington in the San Francisco Bay Area of California and Malala in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. As parents, we all looked forward to the same things: first words, first steps, first days of school. We wanted our girls to grow up happy and healthy, smart and capable, warriors ready to do their part to make the world a better place.

Their worlds, however, were vastly different. Remington had the privilege of attending wonderful public schools where the greatest danger to her was crossing the street in a heavily trafficked neighborhood or, worse-case scenario in Northern California, an earthquake. Meanwhile, Malala’s country was being taken over by the Taliban who insisted that girls be denied access to education. For her educator father, this was not to be. She attended his school, despite the threats against him. He was adamant that all children, boys and girls, had the right to an education. True to her namesake, Malala began to speak out. The result, as you know, was a bullet to her head and the shooting of her classmates as well. As the world rallied around these girls, praying for their survival and outraged at this act of violence, my daughter became more determined to use her voice her way. Malala went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and speak before the United Nations and at events like the Global Citizen Concert. Her voice is strong and her message constant: all children have the basic human right to an education. Meanwhile Remington is a quiet activist, doing her part to educate others about the issues facing girls worldwide and actions they can take to be a part of the solution. Both are continuing their educations and are actively pursuing peace and tolerance in their own way. Hopefully Remington will never know the fear and anxiety that are an every day part of Malala’s life, though certainly she has her own. Hopefully Malala’s message of “Books not Bullets” will be heard. Hopefully Remington’s message of “listen, don’t judge” will be heard. Malala asks us to stand together. Together they are doing their part to spread their messages and advocate for girls’ rights.

What are you doing? You are each gladiators stepping into your own arenas, whether that’s the stage and the podium or the dorm room late at night– the battle is still being waged. Your voices must be heard. Your differences should be celebrated. Your opinions, thoughts and feelings MATTER. You are a girl and you matter. At thinkpeace we encourage you to step into your arena ready to listen, understand, question, and support knowing that you have all of us standing with you. Just as we all stand #withMalala.

the hijab and its purpose, part 2 by mariyah rehmani

director’s note: In the second installment of  Mariyah’s ebook, The Hijab and Its Purpose, the hijab is presented in many forms and through the eyes of various people. As we open our minds to various cultures and belief systems, it is important to remember that there are REASONS people believe what they do and it is only through really listening that we can come to understand our differences. It is our hope that these blog posts will spark meaningful dialogues and a better understanding of what makes up all the colors of the world. Imagine!

 

“Coarse talk does not come into anything without disgracing it and modesty does not come into anything without adorning it.” — Al-Tirmidhi, 4854

Different Types of Veils Worn

There is a variety of different types of veils worn all around the world. Muslim women wear these different types depending on multiple factors including the country they live in, the culture they are a part of, the occasion, or for some; even the weather. But most of all, the woman herself decides what she is most comfortable wearing, and makes her choices accordingly. One must remember that the Hijab or veils come in different sizes, types, materials and colours, and can even be worn differently under each broad category. As it is visually apparent, they provide varying amounts of coverage of the Woman’s body.

Why Some Women Choose Not To Wear It

Many people are not aware of this, but there exist a number of Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab at all. Just like those who wear the veil, women who choose not to have their own personal reasons. Some claim that the Qur’an does not explicitly talk about covering one’s body through a veil such as the hijab. They feel as though wearing the hijab is more of a cultural interpretation of the words written in the Holy Book. Some claim that it is too hot where they live, and they would not be able to bear the heat. Some say they aren’t ready for the commitment or the responsibility of wearing the veil every day in public. Oftentimes, women who wear the hijab in the public world receive a lot of social stigma, and things like stares and uncomfortable glances become a daily phenomenon.

Why She Doesn’t Believe In the Veil- Mrs. Sajeda Jamal 

“Mrs. Jamal has more than 15 years of experience in the early childhood learning space and was raised in Dubai where she completed her B. Ed and Certificate in ECCE. She has worked as a kindergarten teacher, curriculum designer and app developer”.

What is your view on the Hijab? Do you think it is necessary for a Muslim Woman to wear it?

No it’s not necessary. I feel it is more to do with the culture than with religion. Of what I have read in the Qur’an, the word used is Khimar which means “cover” and in the broad sense it could mean anything, like a bed covering or a sheet. Although the Quran does ask the woman to cover her bosom. But nowhere does it say to cover the hair or face. It does talk about cover the beauty, the word being used “Zinat”. Personally speaking, I feel like a modest dressing is more important. It is important for a girl to dress not to lure men in any way. Revealing dressing to me is improper dressing. I don’t see harm in wearing the Indian Shalwar Kameez (Traditional dress worn mostly in India and Pakistan), and do not see the need to wear any extra scarf over the head. I do not see why you would say that the entire beauty lies in the hair. That is stupidity.

Mr. Jamal (Mrs. Sajeda’s Husband): Firstly, the Qur’an is the only indisputable book, the word of God. It does not say “cover your hair”, it only says “khimar”. God is not short of words, and could have specifically mentioned “hair” or head. In Indian culture and Arab culture etc. women are expected to cover their heads. It is merely cultural. Additionally, you face is your identity, it is part of who you are, why do you throw that away?

What Is the Purpose of the Hijab?

To better understand the purpose and meaning behind the Islamic veil, what better way to do this than to read verses directly from the Holy Islamic Book: The Qur’an. In Chapter 24 titled an-Nur (meaning: The Light), in verse 30, Allah commands Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) as follows:

Translated, it means: “Say to the believing men that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste). This is better for them.” (Al-Islam.org)

This message commands all Muslim men to glance downwards i.e. to not look at any other women lustfully (apart from their own wives) so as to avoid the possibility of temptation. This is often referred to as “Hijab of the eyes”.

In the succeeding verse, Allah commands the Prophet (s.a.w) to address the women of Islam:

Meaning: “Say to the believing women that: they should cast down their glances and guard their private parts (by being chaste) …” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)

This is a very similar commandment as that which was given to the men in the previous verse, dealing with “The hijab of the eyes”. It also states that women should “Guard their private parts”, doing so by being chaste. (Al-Islam.org)

The teaching of “hijab of the eyes” is very similar to the biblical teachings as well. In The Gospel of Matthew, chap. 5, verses 27-28, Jesus (as) says: “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not commit adultery. But I say unto you, that whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Keeping this in mind, if you ever see a Muslim talking with the opposite sex and looking downwards, it is not because of a lack of confidence, but rather it is him/her abiding by the Qur’anic as well as Biblical teachings. Subsequently came the verse that describes the Islamic dress code for Women:

“…and not display their beauty except what is apparent, and they should place their khumur over their bosoms…” (Al-Islam.org)

What does “Khumur” mean in this verse? the , ِخ َما ر is plural of khimar ُخ ُم ر Khumur veil covering the head. Check any Arabic dictionary like Lisanu ’l- ‘Arab, Majma ‘u ’l-Bahrayn or al-Munjid for further clarifications. Al-Munjid, which is the most popular dictionary in the Arab world, defines alkhimar as “something with which a woman conceals her head.”

Fakhru ’d-Din al-Turayhi in Majma ‘u ’lBahrayn (which is a dictionary for words specifically from the Qur’an and hadith) defines al-khimar as “scarf, and it is known as such because the head is covered with it.” (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”)

So the word khimar, by definition, means a piece of cloth that covers the head.

Click here to watch the wonderful Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan discuss the meaning of the Khimar: YouTube Preview Image

So what does the phrase “Place their Khumur over their bosoms” mean? Let us dive into a little Islamic History: According to various commentators of the Qur’an, the women of Medina in the pre-Islamic era used to put their khumur over the head with the two ends tucked behind and tied at the back of the neck, in the process exposing their ears and neck. By commanding women to “place the Khumur over their bosoms, Almighty Allah ordered the women to let the tied ends of their scarf loose, subsequently extending onto their bosoms so that they may cover their ears, neck and chest area. (“The Qur’an and Hijab.”) Our understanding of these verses was then confirmed by the reaction of the Muslim Women to this commandment of God. The Sunni source quotes Ummu ’l-mu’minin ‘A’isha, the Prophet’s wife, saying:

However, it is crucial to note and to understand that different women interpret the Qur’an’s words differently. Many women simply believe that wearing the Hijab is a cultural translation of the words from the Holy book and do not think that Khumur is something that covers the head, but rather just the bosom. (As it is not stated explicitly in the Qur’an but that most people agree that the definition of the Khimar is a cloth that covers the head.) Finally, the verse goes on to give the list of the mahram – male family members in whose presence the hijab is not required, such as the husband, the father, the father-in-law, the son(s), and others. This verse ends with a list of the mahram, i.e. the people in presence of which the veil is not required, for e.g. the Husband, the father, the grandfather, sons(s) and so on and so forth. There also exists another verse in the Qur’an that talks about wearing a loose garment Jalabib (sing. Jilbab) around themselves as to not attract attention towards their figure. In essence, the purpose of the hijab is to promote modesty, and in turn, safeguard women from the lustful stares of men (and vice versa) and to ensure that both women and men do not commit illicit acts. It is about empowering women, and giving them a medium through which they are no longer objectified by society, but liberated from it. They are much more likely to be judged by their personality and intellect rather than their body and their sexuality. It is important to keep in mind that the religion of Islam is a lot about prevention rather than cure. A lot of the commandments by God restrict any acts that may lead to unlawful behaviour.

A brilliant video that really opened my eyes about the effect of wearing a burqa/hijab in the streets (Must see): YouTube Preview Image

The Science Behind the Hijab

You may be surprised to know that the hijab is not merely a baseless practice, it too has a science behind it. All of what is in the Qur’an is scientifically accurate knowledge. Let’s look at the ways in which the brain works, and how the hijab may help a woman. The brain is one of the most fundamental organs of the human Body. It receives inputs from sensory modalities, i.e. feeling, smelling, seeing and testing etc. The stimuli that is received from various parts of the body is then stored and processed in the brain. It connects different ideas together, forms new ones, and makes decisions upon what actions should be taken in response to the given information. The brain builds the bridge from input to output.

Therefore, the conclusion that controlling sensory information coming from the eyes can largely impact the working of and further tasks such as memory, analysis of stored information, processing thoughts, learning, recognition, and several social and emotional facets relating to fed stimuli is most definitely a logical one. Neurons in the brain have the task of processing all this oncoming information, and distributing it to various parts of the brain for timely retrieval in the future. Lastly, the output of this processed information is relayed back to our brain or corresponding muscles in the form of words, actions and thoughts. Thus, it is safe to conclude that if wrong or incorrect sensory stimuli is fed to the brain, the neurons processing and storing that kind of information will in turn result in the imparting of bad ideas, thoughts and finally, bad actions and words. A simple diagram of the same information is given below:

It is then crucial to understand the fact that when a person is exposed to an environment with large amounts of provocative stimuli, especially coming from the eyes and the visual system, it leads to relevant and similar kind of aggressive and provocative words, actions and thoughts. Younger, more susceptible individuals with minds that are easily affected by such stimuli, lacking a resolute enough self control will quickly get affected by the kind of stimuli that is provided to them. They are highly likely to think, act and say things that directly correlate with what they hear, smell, taste, but especially see around them. This is why kids that play violent video games or games with similar themes are often drawn to behave in the same aggressive manner.  With the advent of ever-advancing science and technology, in a world where all kinds of resources and all kinds of stimuli are at the tips of your fingers, it is even easier to get exposed to obscene or inappropriate themes. Not only this, with social gatherings, events, parties, universities etc. there is a lot of interactions between males and females. I am not claiming that this is wrong, but rather stating that there is higher tendency of receiving provocative stimuli in these kinds of social situations.

Moreover, both males and females can dress modestly, wearing loose, unprovocative clothing that stops an indecent kind of sensory stimuli from entering people’s minds. Everyone must also maintain a certain level of modesty in the way they carry themselves, the way they talk and the words they use and in their actions and converse with other with people. This could essentially help minimise or even prevent “unwanted emotional or social consequences”. (Haydari)

Once again, it is essential to enforce the idea of prevention before cure. Both women and men must do their part in acting, talking and dressing in a decent manner so as to avoid the wrong kind of sensory stimuli from entering one’s minds. Another very important aspect of ‘purdah’ or veiling that is outlined in the Qur’an is the lowering of the gaze.

The Health Benefits of the Hijab

“In Chinese medical texts, in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic on Internal Medicine, it was stated that wind can cause sudden changes within the body and will upset the body’s equilibrium thus, creating bad health.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)

It has been written that ailments such as the common cold and flu are related to wind elements that disturb the body’s equilibrium when they enter the body, and cause symptoms such as a running nose or sneezing. “In the traditional Islamic medical texts of Al-Jawziyya, there are numerous references to the “four elements” of fire, water, air and earth and how these affect the body in adverse ways. In particular, we are advised to stay away from drafts and protect our heads in wind, breezes, drafts and cold weather.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”) Also, covering the head is important for a variety of health reasons in the warm weather. V.G. Rocine, a prominent brain research specialist, discovered that phosphorus found in the brain begins to melt at 108 has found that brain Phosphorus melts at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a temperature that can easily be achieved if one stays under the sun for a short period of time without a head covering. When this takes place, a temperature that can be easily reached if one stays under the hot sun for any length of time without a head covering. When this happens, irreparable damage to the brain is done, including memory loss and loss of a few brain functions. “Although this example is extreme, Brain damage can still be measured in small degrees from frequent exposure to and overheating of the head.” (“Science Behind the Hijab”)

Bernard Jensen, noted chiropractor and neuropath claims that this is due to the fact that the  brain “runs on the mineral phosphorus” (“Science Behind the Hijab”), which is easily affected by heat.

In the end, the Islamic dress code is meant for and in the interest of Women’s safety and well-being, rather than her subjugation or oppression, as media often portrays it as.

Next week: the hijab does not keep you from doing what you want

 

 

 

 

 

the hijab and its purpose by mariyah rehmani

 

director’s note:  Mariyah is a dynamic, fun-loving, artistic, bright and compassionate 15 year old from Pune, India. When she arrived at camp 2 summers ago in NYC she appeared confident and completely at ease wearing her hijab around the city.  Some of her thinkpeace sisters had questions and even judgments, and she addressed them all graciously and with determination to educate them.  As our society becomes more xenophobic and fearful of anything associated with Islam, we think Mariyah’s study on the purpose of the hijab is more important than ever. We encourage you to learn about differences– racial, gender, religious, sexual, economic– and see that differences don’t have to separate us. In fact they can be the beginning of meaningful dialogue that can open our hearts and minds, bringing us together and truly creating peace. It starts with listening and respecting… Please join us as we journey into discovering more about differences every week in our thoughtful thursdays posts… Today we begin with Mariyah’s choice to wear a hijab. We will be posting sections from her ebook over the next few weeks.

 

The Hijab and Its Purpose

This eBook is intended for the purpose of helping the reader understand what the hijab really is, and what it stands for.  It has come to my understanding that the people around me, and those not around me too, have a very hazy perception of the hijab.  Many people ask me about why I wear it, and even if my dad forced me to wear it.  This inspired me to write about the hijab, and why it is close to the hearts of millions of women worldwide.
Inside, you will find everything you need to know about the hijab; everything from its origin, to its purpose, its message, its types, and even the science behind it! This will give you a holistic idea of what it is all about.  Understanding the hijab, and even Islam is very important in this age.  Islam is one of the fastest growing religions worldwide (“The Fastest Growing Religion in the World Is … – CNN.com.”).  Unfortunately, it is often portrayed in a bad light by the media, and ongoing violence and terrorism is almost always attributed to our peaceful religion. The hijab too has been shunned by many as being “oppressive” and “restrictive”, even though thousands worldwide can testify to it being exactly the opposite. My aim is to help clear misconceptions and preconceptions about the Islamic veil and dress code in general.  Along with this, you will find out more about the concept of modesty and about successful women who wear the hijab with pride.  At the end you will discover a gallery of pictures showcasing how different cultures affect hijab styles and the variation in the hijabs themselves, country to country. Finally, there also awaits a LookBook that portrays just how modern trends are seamlessly integrated with the hijab creating a whole new category of ‘Hijabi Fashion’.  So please do not hesitate, and flip through to find out more about this beautiful concept of the hijab.

hi-jab, (hĭ-jäb′) n.

1. Any of several cloth head coverings worn by Muslim women.

2. The veiling of women in some Islamic societies, customarily practiced in order to maintain standards of modesty.
[Arabic ḥijāb, cover, curtain, veil, from ḥajaba, to cover] (“hijab”)
Many use the following verses from the Holy Qur’an to help describe the requirements for a Muslim women’s dress:

Although this is not commonly known, there are also dress codes for Muslim men to abide and they include covering of the body from at least the navel to the knees and not wearing excessively tight, sheer, or flashy clothing. (Islam101.com)  Most rules regarding the Islamic dress code and the verses from the Qur’an that they have been derived from have been interpreted differently by different people. This is why that there is a diverse world of
views and opinions on whether women should wear the hijab or not, or to what extent. This will be touched upon in further detail later in this book.

 Modesty can be defined as “regard for decency of behaviour, speech, dress, etc.” or even “the lack of vanity” (TheFreeDictionary.com) Contrary to popular belief, modesty is not about “how much skin is too much?” or “How much can I leave uncovered until I get into trouble?”  It is certainly much more than what you wear or how you look.  Modesty means acting towards others in a way that is humble and compassionate. Modesty means avoiding vanity and striving to be pure in your thoughts, in your words and in your actions. It means dressing yourself in a way that not only makes you comfortable, but protects you from unwanted catcalls and lustful stares.  Of course, it is not a women’s sole responsibility for what goes on inside a man’s head, but she can certainly make a big impact through the way she dresses, speaks, and carries herself.  Men are accountable for their own thoughts and actions, and they too are expected to practice modesty in all spheres of life.  Ask yourself: “What impact do I want my personality and my appearance to have? What message am I trying to convey to everyone around me?” It is through the very concept of modesty that the hijab tries to make a positive change in society.

Why wear it?

The first important thing to understand about why women wear the hijab is that there is not one universal reason behind choosing to veil oneself. There can be multiple reasons for different people based on what they choose to believe or interpret. Some say the verses in the Qur’an indicate that they are obligated to cover their heads and chests. Others believe that practicing wearing the hijab is the best way to exercise modesty. Some wear it in order to stand as a symbol of their religion, to stand out from a crowd. A lot of people wear the hijab because it makes them feel more confident. Many claim that while wearing the hijab, the feel they aren’t being judged for their looks and rather for their manners, personality or intellect. Most of all, women wear the hijab because they like it, and they want to wear it. The bottom line is; women use the hijab and wear it for a multitude of reasons, each helping a woman grow and succeed in a different way. An article from UK’s Telegraph Newspaper that reads “Feminism, fashion and religion: Why Muslim women choose to wear the veil” beautifully illustrates the point I am trying to make. In the article, numerous women share their reasons for practicing the hijab on Reddit, a popular social media platform: A user named ‘Captain Monkee’ writes:  ”I like to use it to promote feminism, however it is very hard to express it because of how people view it. There ARE a lot of women who are forced to wear it, and I think that’s really wrong, no matter how religious or what country. The hijab is forced in some places in the world, or by certain people – especially men in many cases. I will not deny this. This is not feminism. I want to take this hijab and make it my own. First choose if I even want to cover or not. Define WHY and HOW. I will choose what colours I will wear. What materials. Not just black and white.”

This highlights the freedom that a woman has when she is wearing the hijab. She decides what she wants to do with it. After all, it is HER body, HER head, and HER choice. No one should be forced to do something they do not want to. The user ‘Pharmersmarket’ writes: “I genuinely like wearing it. It makes me feel put together and confident in a weird way. Maybe because it does take a certain level of courage to visibly separate yourself from normal society. To start wearing a hijab I had to stop caring about what other people thought and now I can be proud of that. (6) 10 “It definitely doesn’t stop street harassment, but men do treat you with a bit more respect. I don’t think it’s right to treat a girl differently because of how she’s dressed but it does happen.

She focuses more on what she believes defines being Muslim, or rather helps send a message to others around her. She also emphasises that in the end of the day, it’s a choice; you do it if you want to, or don’t do it. Another user ‘Boggle_leged’, who states she is a lawyer, begins:

“I, as well as most Muslims I know in the West, am not fond of the burka or niqab here, because it could expose an individual to unnecessary harm and harassment. Since there are strong religious opinions that permit just the hijab without covering the face, I personally feel that it is a better choice. (7) 11 In the end, however, as long as that individual has made the decision independently and knows why she is doing something, I respect her decision.” An important thing to note is that the only reason that she is not in favour of other women wearing the burka or niqab is that she feels it causes unnecessary “harm and harassment” to women. I believe that this is something that should be changed. Everyone has a choice to wear what they feel like and express themselves in whatever way they choose, so long as they do not cause any form of harm or hurt to anyone around them. Yet another user, possessing the screen name ’474064′, says: “Personally, I love wearing the hijab. Nobody could pay me enough to take it off. It honestly liberates me because I get to choose how much of myself I reveal to the public. It’s awesome. I have drawers full of a variety of vibrant colours and prints. I match them with my outfits and wear a different style every day. It’s kind of like a beautiful, religious fashion statement.” These are some of the many reasons behind why different women from different parts of the world feel the need to wear the hijab. I hope they not only help in understanding the concept behind the veil better, but also serve to inspire and enlighten.

 next week: different types of veils

Reasons Why We Still Need Feminism by Sarah Connolly

Director’s Note:  Recently thinkpeace girl Sarah Connolly wrote this article for her school’s newspaper.  Sadly, it was met with ridicule by some of her classmates.  Perhaps the reactions that Sarah received were a result of discomfort over the issues she raised in her article, but it is precisely because it sparked a reaction that we need to continue the dialogue about gender equality.  At thinkpeace we believe that boys are equally a part of the solutions to the issues facing girls worldwide. We believe that we are IN IT TOGETHER. Recognizing the importance in us all working together to create the change we know needs to happen, the United Nations has launched a program called HeForShe, a solidarity movement for gender equality that brings together one half of humanity in support of the other half of humanity, for the benefit of all. We encourage you all to keep talking to the boys and men in your life about what feminism really means and how they can stand with us for equality. Being a feminist means that you only need to be on board with one idea: All humans, male and female, should have equal political, economic and social rights.  To the critics of Sarah’s article: we ask you to think before reacting. We ask you to look around at the amazing girls and women in your lives.  We ask you to acknowledge their worth and to embrace equality.  We ask you to take the HeForShe commitment and stand WITH us. Imagine!

Why women fighting for their rights is still as relevant as ever

By Sarah Connolly, Editor in Chief

Feminism is defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”So why do so many people shy away from this word? On July 4, 1776, our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, stating “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Before you say that the Constitution only states that “all men are created equal,” remember that in the 1700s, men was a universal term used to define all people. A feminist is not a girl who thinks she is superior to all men. The idea is about the real issues and obstacles that women are forced to face domestically and globally. A feminist is someone who fights for equality and human rights. Lately, I have heard a lot of people say that feminism should be renamed. People claim that if feminism is really about equality, then it should be called “humanism.” However, it would be completely ineffective to call the “gay rights movement” the “human rights movement.” Feminism is called feminism because the name addresses the problem at hand. So why is feminism so prevalent in today’s society? In America, women have the right to vote. They can have virtually any job they are qualified for and attend school to get a great education. Feminism is essential if women and men are ever going to be perceived as equals. Before you argue that women and men are in fact equal, consider these six injustices that women face:

  1. Around the world, women are treated as lesser human beings. In developing countries such as Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, women are not allowed to attend school. If they chose to attend, they risk being shot by terrorist organizations or having acid thrown in their faces. The few women that do attend school are not allowed to do so with boys.
  2. In the United States alone, a woman is raped every two minutes. Twenty-five percent of girls are sexually assaulted before they turn eighteen. Sexual abuse goes far beyond the United States. It is perhaps even more prevalent in developing countries where women are poor and uneducated.
  3. Approximately 15 million girls around the world are forced into marriage before they turn eighteen. Some girls are married when they are as young as seven or eight years old to men they barely know. These young girls are neither physically or emotionally ready for such a commitment. Child marriages are a primary source of domestic violence, and younger girls are more likely to have complications in childbirth and contract HIV.
  4. Female Genital Mutilation, or FGM, as it is more commonly known, is a destructive operation where girls’ genitals are removed or injured to stop sexual feeling. Operations are most commonly performed on girls before they hit puberty. It primarily takes place in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. FGM operations are extremely painful and can be fatal. FGM is commonly operated without a girl’s consent.
  5. In some countries, the majority of families desire to have a male child. Women are not as valued in their societies, and poor families need male children to get jobs to make money. Sadly, baby girls become a waste of money and resources, and some families kill or abandon their female children in order to save themselves from feeding an extra mouth
  6. Feminism is needed just as much domestically as it is internationally. If a woman and a man have the exact same credentials and work the exact same job, a woman is still likely to earn eighteen percent less money. Sure, we have female doctors, lawyers and politicians, but American society undervalues female workers. Therefore, they are paid less, and there is no reason for this. If a woman and a man have identical qualifications and work the same job, then they should have the exact same salary.

Cheris Kramarae once said, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are human beings.” Feminism is something that needs to be addressed on a large, global scale, we still have a long way to go before everyone, regardless of gender, is seen as equals around the world. However, in the past decade, society has made giant steps toward this goal.

#orangeURhood

#orangeurhood

It’s TakeActionTuesday– and the beginning of #16days of Activism against Gender Violence. During this time we ask you to join with us, UNwomen.org and SayNoToViolence.org as we raise awareness and call for the elimination of violence against women and girls around the world.  Last year, the UNiTE campaign launched a global call for action to “Orange the World in 16 Days.”  The initiative aimed to create the symbolic image of a world free from violence against women and girls. The color orange is a uniting theme for all the events surrounding the UNiTE campaign, and is a bright and optimistic color, representative of a world free from violence against women and girls. At thinkpeace workshop for girls, orange represents many things, especially during this month of World Kindness, Tolerance and the campaign to stop gender-based violence.  Please put your orange on for the next #16days and make your statement!

#TheCall

Over the next 16 days we will be posting on facebook actions that you can take in your community. Today’s actions are:

Organize a walk with local government officials to mark the 16 Days of Activism. Wear orange t-shirts and carry orange banners, posters and balloons. Use the opportunity to engage members of your local community and raise awareness of violence against women and girls.
Share information about violence against women and girls with your local community and invite them to pledge to support the UNiTE campaign.
 ☮ Turn your profile picture orange for the duration of the 16 Days! Whether you’re on Twitter or on Facebook, it’s easy for you to turn your current profile picture orange.  Check out the overlay design on Twibbon. Go to http://twibbon.com/search and type in “#Orangeurhood in #16days”.
 ☮ Turn your emails orange! Write your emails in orange text, and put the following line on the bottom:  Wonder why this email is orange? Because it’s the International Day to End Violence against Women. Find out more at http://unwomen.org.
 As we orange our hood in New York, #orangeurhood by photoshopping landmarks from your neighborhood orange, and share them on social media via the hashtags #orangeurhood and #16days.

At thinkpeace workshop for girls we believe that violence against women and girls is a violation of human rights and a serious global issue that is preventable.  It is NOT okay that 35% of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime with up to seven in ten women facing this abuse in some countries.  The UN has stated that “Violence against women and girls impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combatting HIV and AIDS, and peace and security.  Violence against women and girls has enormous social and economic costs for individuals, families, communities and societies and has a significant impact on development and the realization of sustainable development goals.”  Together we can Say No to Violence. Start today.

Imagine.

 

 

 

Wonder Woman Wednesday: Shannon Galpin

Director’s note:  This is the first post in a new thinkpeace series about girls and women doing some pretty amazing things with their lives. At thinkpeace workshop summer camp 2014, thinkpeace girls met with women from a variety of organizations. They talked about how their journey, from childhood dreams to what they studied in college combined with personal life experiences, has led to the work they are doing now and the visions they have for the future. We were inspired and motivated by these women– and others we’ve connected with– and would like to share some of these stories with you. Most of these posts will be written by thinkpeace girls who were literally energized by these Wonder Women!

Mountain Mover, Shannon Galpin                                                                                                                                by Reese Arthur

Shannon Galpin is one of the bravest women I have ever met. Not because she took her life savings, sold her home, quit her job and invested every bit of herself into giving a voice to girls and women halfway around the world… not because she got on her mountain bike and pedaled across a country where women were not allowed to ride bikes… not because she refused to be a victim to gender violence… to me Shannon Galpin is brave because every day she gets up determined to try harder, give more, and push through the obstacles. She works endlessly to help Afghan women and girls get an education and have opportunities for a better life.  Shannon gives of herself every moment in every way.

I could tell you Shannon’s story, but I encourage you to buy her book next month [you can pre-order it now AND contribute to the thinkpeace scholarship fund at http://smile.amazon.com/Mountain-Journey-Adventure-Activism-Afghanistan] and read her personal story. What I want to tell you about is how she inspires me. Before attending thinkpeace camp in 2010, we were asked to bring with us some information about a cause or issue that was important to us. I have always been interested in women’s rights and had seen Shannon interviewed on Dateline.

 http://www.nbcnews.com/video/dateline/30793743#30793743

I was 11 years old and I thought Shannon was really cool! In 3rd grade I did a biography report on Gloria Steinem and became aware of problems facing women and believed that there was still injustice towards girls, despite Ms. Steinem’s work.  When I learned about Shannon’s work, I felt I’d found another Gloria. She was passionate about changing the world too, in a pretty dangerous place. When Shannon responded to reporter Ann Curry’s question of why she was doing what she was doing with, “If not me, who?” I thought, I can do that too! So I emailed her and she got back to me right away saying that yes, I COULD do something to make a difference! I could organize a community bike ride with my friends to raise awareness about girls’ rights in Afghanistan. In upstate New York this was quite a challenge! That first year of what we called the Panjshir Tour, I was lucky to get my neighborhood friends to ride with me in solidarity.

YouTube Preview Image

Over the next few years our ride has grown to include rides in California and India! Whenever I get a chance to talk about basic human freedoms such as riding a bike and going to school, I talk about Shannon and her work at Mountain2Mountain. I currently serve as the youth advisor for Mountain2Mountain and am eager to participate in this year’s Global Solidarity Ride with Shannon and other cyclists around the world. Shannon believes in the encouraging people to use their bikes “as a vehicle for social change and justice to support a country where women don’t have the right to ride a bike.” It’s cool that we have so many boys participating now in our local rides, joining us in our determination to ensure girls rights to an education around the world. The Global Solidarity Ride is scheduled for August 30th and if you want to organize  a ride in your community, let me know!  Just as Shannon has supported me, I’ll support you!

Shannon’s dedication has made such a difference. In just a few years Afghanistan has gone from being a country with no females on bicycles to a country with a National Women’s Cycling Team! It’s so exciting! Check out their beginnings at http://www.afghancycles.com/. Things are looking up for women and girls in Afghanistan, but it’s always a precarious situation. The Taliban is still present and the women who ride are always at risk of being attacked or shut down. Now, more than ever, we need to stand with them in solidarity– to RIDE with them in solidarity– and send a message to the world that girls and women matter. Five years ago I met a real life hero, a wonder woman, who made me more aware, who made me feel  more deeply, who made me believe that every drop in the bucket counts– who told an 11 year old American girl that she could make a difference for a girl on the other side of the world. Now I’m asking you to join us– together we can pedal a revolution!

 

give me the facts sista’: water

Director’s note: Second in her series about the issues facing girls (and the world) today, GARMIN talks water. Unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation  kill more people each year than all forms of violence combined, including war. thinkpeace workshop has just contributed 10,000 paper beads made for the Students Rebuild water challenge, in partnership with charity:water. That translates into a contribution from the Bezos Family Foundation of water for 500 people in Tanzania.  Water truly effects everything– education, health, poverty and opportunity. Imagine.

 

charity: water

When my doctor tells me I need to drink more water in order to get healthier faster, I groan. Hearing that I need to drink more water is last on my list of priorities, however for many girls, women, and children in developing countries water is the first on their list. Access to clean and drinkable water is one of top global health crises today, in fact so much that it effects 1 billion people. Yes, you read that right. 1 billion people. The facts are clear.

Check out this video by one of the organizations helping to bring clean drinking water to those without it, charity:water

YouTube Preview Image

I’ve watched this video a number of times and what gets me every time is the fact that water affects every aspect of life. In most cases girls and women are the ones who are collecting the water for their families. Having to collect water puts their education on the back burner and often times forces them to drop out of school. Last week we talked about the importance of education and how it changes the quality of life for girls and women. That change can’t happen if girls are focused on obtaining water. When the strain of collecting water is diminished, two HUGE things happen for those communities: food supply increases and gender equality is now an option. Fresh water is needed to grow crops and for many families having enough water to grow their own small garden increases their food supply. Secondly, when girls are no longer burdened with collecting water they can either go to school or have the option of pursuing work. Either of those two options helps their own families and then their communities. Engaging women in work increases the GDP of a country and helps an area become more economically stable. While obtaining the funds to build systems to provide clean drinking water is not cheap there is a solution.

Later this summer at camp we will talk about ways to engage you in being part of the solution!

46 days until camp!!!

give me the facts sista’: education

At thinkpeace workshop we believe it is our duty as global citizens to be informed and educated on the challenges facing girls around the world. The next couple of weeks here on the blog will focus on some hard core facts of some of these challenging global problems with the intention of encouraging you to develop a critical lens aimed toward finding a solution. Naturally, these posts will not be fully comprehensive because many of these issues are large, complicated, and without simple straight forward solutions. Understanding the basic core of each challenge is the first step in finding a solution. 

This week we will take up the intersection of gender and education.

In this past Sunday’s New York Times, journalist Nick Kristof takes up this issue, “Why are fanatics so terrified of girls’ education? Because there’s no force more powerful to transform a society. The greatest threat to extremism isn’t drones firing missiles, but girls reading books.” I think he’s spot on with this.  It’s why Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Afghan Taliban, it’s why Boko Haram took nearly 300 girls from school, and it’s one of the core contributors towards girl-specific violence. Quite simply the equation is this: girls + education = change

If you haven’t yet seen the video The Girl Effect, it’s time.

YouTube Preview Image

So why would extremist groups and people in general be threatened by educated girls? Some facts followed by an explanation:

  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.

Fewer children means less people in the workforce which means less hands to be able to work the fields and help around the home. It means that girls gain control of their reproduction which gives them more power to create change. 

  • An extra year of primary school education boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10-20%.  An extra year of secondary school adds 15-25%.

More money for women means that the global poverty rate will go down. A woman will work to address problems in her community, and her children will be given a greater chance of survival. 

  • Women in 32 countries who remained in school after primary school were five times more likely to know basic facts about HIV than illiterate women.

Education decreases a girl’s or woman’s risk for contracting HIV or transmitting HIV to her baby. Knowing how to prevent contraction or transmission means that the global HIV/AIDS rate will go down. 

While we know educated girls are the key to global change, the rate in which girls are attending school has not caught up. Day of the Girl and Girl Rising, both organizations devoted to raising awareness on girls issues gives us the facts:

66 million girls are out of school globally.

 Only 30% of all girls worldwide are enrolled in secondary school. 

The average sub-Saharan African girl from a low income, rural household gets less than two years of school and never learns to read and write, to add and subtract, as opposed to the average sub- Saharan African boy who fully completes primary education.  

There are 33 million fewer girls than boys in primary school. 

If India enrolled 1 % more girls in secondary school, their GDP would rise by $5.5 billion. 

So if all of these facts are true, why don’t we just cut to the chase and enroll girls in school? You see, it’s not that easy. School in other countries is not always free, it isn’t always available, and families don’t always want educated girls for a variety of reasons. Educated girls will create change, plain and simple. Change is not always easy.

Knowing the facts is the first step in creating change. Girls + education = change. How are you going to change the course of this global challenge?

Send me your thoughts, questions, concerns. garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

what’s gay got to do with it?

Director’s note:  It’s been almost 17 years since Ellen DeGeneres made headline news with her coming out story. Below, thinkpeace workshop Intern, GARMIN, asks us to look at why the media continues to focus on celebrity sexuality. We appreciate the bravery that it takes to come out in today’s world and still, we wonder when we will live in a world where we simply value love, in all forms.  Imagine!
I’m mad. I’m angry. I’m frustrated. Now, it’s not often that I am these things, so you know when I am it’s for a good reason. In the past week two celebrities came out as gay. Now, I’m NOT mad about them being gay, in fact quite the opposite– I’m stoked for them; props for being you. I’m mad and angry and frustrated because why the hell are we still talking about it? Why is coming out still such a big deal? Should every person come out regardless of their sexual or gender identity? Should my friends come out and say, “Hi I’m a straight cis-gender woman?!” I don’t know. I do know that I am so over talking about this.

A couple nights ago my best friend Anne (sometime you’ll meet her if she ever agrees to let me interview her) and I were debriefing the week as we often do. I was explaining my frustration to her about all these celebrities coming out and it being such a big deal and on the cover of every mediocre newspaper and magazine in the US. She looked at me, smiled, and shared this quote by comedian Liz Feldman, “It’s very dear to me, the issue of gay marriage. Or, as I like to call it: ‘marriage.’ You know, because I had lunch this afternoon, not gay lunch. I parked my car; I didn’t gay park it.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I get it. I get coming out. I came out as queer to Anne in August 2011, and then it was a whopping 7 more months before most of the people in my life knew. Coming out is hard, those 7 months were the hardest months of my life– hiding isn’t fun, fear of rejection isn’t fun, the jokes are mostly not funny, and it is oh so liberating. Liberating to be yourself and step into your full authenticity.

Last May, when DOMA and Edie Windsor were in the Supreme Court fighting for rights, I wandered up to Capitol Hill to see what the general vibe was, simply out of curiosity. I saw something fascinating: two clear sides, a “YES! We support equality” side and a “NO! You are a bad person” side. Quite simply, while this wasn’t all that surprising it was interesting because it did support my theory about the data that had just been released, “The coveted 18-34 age group is “85% positive toward gay rights and gay marriage and gay inclusion.” And so what does this mean?! It means a majority of my peers, ages 18-34 could care less what you are, its people of older generations who don’t agree with it. And it’s also not surprising that the heads of the top 10 most circulated newspapers in the US (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/01/newspaper-circulation-top-10_n_3188612.html) are over 34. So to get to the gist of it real quick, it is them, the heads of the newspapers who are influencing whether or not a story on the latest celebrity coming out gets the front page or a little tiny sentence on “page 6.” This is HUGE. We are being spoon fed society and culture based on the interests of a handful of older, mostly white men and so it makes perfect sense that they will give us what THEY believe matters most. For a bit of contrast, let me offer this: Huffington Post, run by notable media mogul and PowerGirl Arianna Huffington, reported on Ellen Page coming out not as a “Hey Look, another celebrity comes out!” instead, posting all of the positive tweets and comments Page had received with a short blurb on her coming out. I’m not saying that all men-run newspapers and magazines are bad and women-run newspapers and magazine are good– I love the New York Times Style Section as much as the next person! I’m saying that we need to get clear, PowerGirls, on where our media is coming from!

To come back to my original frustration, I don’t have any clear answers or theories on why we are still obsessively talking about celebrities coming out. I understand that if your favorite celebrity comes out and you are struggling to come out, then it might provide some hope for your own situation. And I don’t think that is enough substance to justify talking about it mercilessly. And so, PowerGirl, this week I challenge you to check out where your media is coming from, who they are, what do they want you to get, and then go make your own decision. Figure out what you believe. From the words of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, I give you this, “It’s human rights for everybody, there is no difference! Live on and be yourself.”

 

As always send me your thoughts, comments, and questions: garmin@thinkpeaceworkshop.org

on the road to gender equality

 

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, French Minister of Women’s Rights

Director’s note: In the United States, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month. Throughout the month, thinkpeace girls have been focussing on raising awareness about modern slavery and the commercial sexual exploitation of young women and girls. President Obama called sex trafficking one of the greatest human rights causes of our time. Taking on this serious issue in France is the new Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. In this position she will also be addressing gender equality in the workplace, in government, and in society. Conscious of the example she sets as a working mother to three-year-old twins and married to a civil servant who has just been appointed to another ministry, her days are long and hard to balance. “I’m aware that beyond my own need to find a personal balance, I should be sending a signal to society as women’s minister about the importance of work-life balance.” But how? “It’s difficult,” she says, jumping up for the next meeting, but resolved to carve out time. Vallaud-Belkacem is inspiring a new generation of French girls and young women looking for possibilities… Today’s blog is written by 16-year-old Eléna from France. Eléna is a thinkpeace girl eager to see her country, and the world, on the road to gender equality and ready to do her part.

Hi everyone !

First I wish to you all a very, very happy new year ! All the best for this year 2014 !

What about women’s rights in 2014 ? How is gender equality going around the world ? In France, this year 2014 began with new projects and really much hope concerning women’s rights. I’d like to share with you what is happening for our rights in France, because it can be difficult to find out such informations… Economic crisis is sometimes taking all the place in our newspapers  around the world at the expense of  some (and maybe more) important things.

Before I began to write about this, I just had a look to some international newspapers to have an idea of what you were hearing about French events. Would it be about unemployment ? War in Central African Republic ? Not at all… This week on BBC News, on USA Today, on The Times Of India, or on Der Spiegel, I was just reading : « French First Lady hospitalized after affair rumor ». Wow. That was it. Nothing else. It sounded crazy, and a bit disappointing, to know that this scandal was the only thing people around the world (and even in France) will remember about those first days of January 2014 in France. Because, I mean, some very important things were happening this month, some things like really more important than the love affair of the President– in particular some good news for the women’s rights, so I thought it would be interesting to share it with you ;) !

On the 6th January 2014 a ministerial Commission took place in Paris, and not just any : the Commission for the Women’s Rights, directed by the French Prime Minister Ayrault and the French Minister for Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. This name may ring a bell to some of you, because I already wrote a little post on my facebook wall last year about her. Born in Morocco in 1977, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was appointed Minister of Women’s Rights and Government Spokesperson by the current French President Hollande in 2012. (Little note :  we have a socialist government for two years, and it was preceded by two centre-right governments from 2002 to 2012). It was  the first time that such a Ministry was really created in the French political story and the first time that a gender-balanced cabinet was created in France.

Actually, the fight for gender equality in France already began long ago, and in particular with the French Revolution. At school, we all learn that the social system knew a big progress with the « Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen » in 1789. But women weren’t included in it. We had to wait for the publication of the « Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen », written in 1791 by the French young activist, Olympes de Gouges, who explained the failure of the French Revolution, which had been devoted in gender equality. So for the XVIIIth  century, lots of laws and regulations gradually changed and improved the situation of women: In 1880, women were admitted in the French universities for the first time, they were allowed to vote in 1944, and the right for abortion was legalised in 1975. In 1980 rape was qualified as crime by the law, and in 1992, conjugal violence and sexual harassment in the workplace were penalized by the law. The XXth    century marked a really big progress for women’s rights in France, in comparison to other countries around the world, but there is still a long way to go. Even though France may be considered a free and respectful country of human rights, the question of equality between men and women in the society is still hot: Women are still discriminated against in France, and they are victims of many injustices in the every day life : sexism, violence, unequal pay at work…

But this way to go is becoming every day shorter and shorter. Since the presidential elections in 2012, many things were made to defend women’s rights, to fight against sex violences and to promote the gender equality in our country. The Government made this fight a top priority and hasn’t neglected it: for 2 years, reforms and new laws have improved the condition of women. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem is very present on the political stage and is doing an enormous work: meetings, new projects… Her work is really inspiring for a lot of french people. I remember having listened to her during her speech in the Senate in September: she explained why she wanted to continue the fight for equality, how it would be possible. The bill she prepared was full of hope and her determination was impressive. She said that a new era had begun for the women’s rights, that the time had come to end the disparities between women and men. Education, employment, work, health… and prostitution, which have been an important part of the social debate in France these last months. Many projects were adopted last year to concretize gender equality  and the improvement of the women situation. Abortion became completely free for every woman, programs of support and professional reintegration for prostitutes or battered women were created, laws about parity at work were adopted. And this month of January began with that Commission I already mentioned. But do all of those projects, laws, ideas have a real impact in the society ? I hope so. We all hope so and believe in this action, even if it takes a long time. We already observed a big progress, and it won’t end there. Many people, and in particular the youth, believe in that evolution. Najat Vallaud-Belkacem came to my High School in October for a meeting. Many students skipped school for the afternoon to see Najat and listen to what she had to say. I was part of them and was totally inspired by her determination and her courage.

I would like to end with a message of hope for every woman in the world. The fight for gender equality just began in a lot of countries and is getting bigger and bigger. Everyone can be a part of it, everyone has a role to play in it. So, stand up for your rights!

P.S : What about women’s rights in your country? Share it with us!

 ♥