Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Call for Conversation

Nicholas Kristof is a friend. We've never shared a conversation, he doesn’t know my name, but I "meet" with him on Sunday mornings and randomly throughout the week when his columns are printed. I look forward to his words and appreciate his consistent and meaningful coverage on international women's issues.

On September 15th Nicholas Kristof is hosting an online seminar advertised as, "A call to arms against our era's most pervasive human rights violation: the oppression of women in the developing world." I know that oppression exists. Therefore it is imperative to dismiss the drama while working on real life solutions. We must be careful and not commodify "The women of the developing world" with articles and seminars. Women living in countries labeled as developing are not puppets for the purpose of selling newspapers or energizing tired and overextended check books in our country's current economic slump.

"The women of the developing world" are mothers and daughters with voices and visions of their own and they must be heard not only to understand their oppression, but in order to grasp our own. We need each other. Their oppression must become my oppression, and categorizing them only serves to further compound the stereotype that our differences outweigh our similarities.

When The New York Times classified the oppression of women in the developing world as the most pervasive human rights violation in our era, what system was used? And when Eric Harr tweeted, "I firmly believe empowering marginalized women will unleash the greatest good the world has ever seen," what did he mean? We must seek to co-empower. Women are not inherently better than men. It is not up to one sex to unleash "the greatest good." Once again, we have spoken for the women of the world while placing the burden of production on their backs.

My call is for conversations regarding stories like the editorials Nicholas Kristof has written. I am thrilled with the momentum and the fact that people are paying attention to international women's issues. Nevertheless, better attention must be paid to the women themselves while working together towards tangible solutions to complicated issues.

Suzanah Raffield

*picture taken by the author, tanzania, summer 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Secret

*Most days I don't feel it . . . the urgent desire to have a child of my own. For some reason, today is one of those days. Maybe it's because I keep picturing my friend EML with her baby girl on this Women's Equality Day. Maybe it is because I am loving my new job that surrounds me with fabulous and complicated teenage girls. This morning on her Facebook page EML wrote, "I've been singing to J all morning and whispering secrets to her about what life is like! I picked her up and danced with her singing, "Our daughters' daughters' will adore us. And they'll sing in grateful chorus, well done, Sister Suffragette!"

I want to whisper secrets to my children about what life is like. I want to watch them roll their eyes as I make popcorn and require them to watch Iron Jawed Angels every year on August 26. I want to be a parent.

For now I am a parent to about 26,000 projects in my mind and one big research paper. It's hard to whisper secrets to those so if you don't mind, I will tell you one. No one is better than you. You are better than no one. We were all created in the image of God.

Happy Women's Equality Day!
* Photo courtesy of reutC's Flickr page. Many thanks to her.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dear Chiang Mai, I Do

Next month an old friend is getting married. She is in the dwindling class of mature single women friends I have. However excited I am for her, it seems strange to hear her talk of wedding dress fittings and invitation sending stress.

She holds her hands differently now, my soon to be married friend. I guess I would too if I had a diamond hanging off my engagement finger.

I remember years ago having a conversation with MEM about having it all - the call, the spouse, the children. I was confident in my answer to her, "Yes, you can have it all. Go for it." I don't think I would answer her differently now. However, my all, her all, your all can be totally different. And I'm ok with that. In fact, I'm thankful.

Currently, the only ring on my finger is the beaded one I bought at the night market in Chiang Mai. And as I watch the growing belly of my friend BNMNR I do think about how wonderful it would be to experience in person what I do so much writing about . . . maternal health. At this time, my all is not her all. 70 to 90 years just doesn't seem like enough to me. There is so much yet to do.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

kitenge love

Just arrived in a North Georgia town for a good friend's engagement party. She has a delightful guest bedroom with a small window table doubling as a suitcase stand. Scratching her antique table with my antique luggage is not an option. So, what does every smart woman have for day and overnight trips? A kitenge! Don't leave home without them.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Kitenges from the Kidete Women's Cooperative

bracelet $1

kitenge $10

bag $13