I’m getting ready to go to Washington DC to advocate Congress with my fellow AJWS Global Justice Fellowship fellows for passage of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). It now has bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and resonates deeply with so many of us right now in light of the kidnappings in Nigeria of hundreds of teenage girls from the school where they were hoping for and working toward a different future. Passage of IVAWA is part of AJWS’ current campaign called We Believe. I wrote a bit about the campaign on this blog in November when I traveled to Oaxaca and Mexico City to meet groups there working to end gender-based violence and to improve indigenous land rights. I was deeply moved by the dedication and fearlessness of the women (and the men who support them) that I met on that trip.
But it came home to me in a different way yesterday. Anyone who knows me knows that trip preparations involve getting my brows groomed. That is done at a threading salon where I love watching the Bollywood music videos while I wait for my turn with the beautiful Sapna. As one would expect this week, she asked if I had Mothers Day plans. I told her that I would be missing my usual excursion with my daughter and granddaughter this year and why. Tears welled and she told me that a school friend of hers, now a journalist, works to change the attitude in India and that it is a hard sell. She said that women give their daughters as young as 12 or 13 to marry older men, some with one or more wives already, saying that it happened to them so why not to their daughters. She hugged me and said, “Please ask them in Washington to help.”
I had explained IVAWA to 8-year-old Amanda last week – very simply – she knows that some women are abused here in the US and worldwide, but she was shocked by the concept of child marriage. She said this was a good reason to miss Mothers Day.
You can learn more about IVAWA and We Believe at the AJWS website.
We believe that love is not a crime. We believe that women and men deserve to live lives free of violence and intimidation. We believe that it is our responsibility as a nation to do three things to promote human rights in the developing world: Stop violence against women and girls; Stop hate crimes against LGBT people; and Empower girls to end child marriage. IVAWA would give US agencies working overseas tools to accomplish some of this.
You can be part of this too. Urge your representative to get this bill passed and signed in a hurry. Raise your voice. Be part of the change.
OK, now I’m ready to go.