March 11, 2007

Women and Children First?

I've had an interesting twisty week, slamming around from one school of thought to another like a silver ball in a pinball machine. I've been working on things I initially thought were all separate, only to discover that nothing in my brain works in isolation.

It's been International Women's Day or Week or whatever - I still hate that we need the designation. Yet, I found myself in a meeting passionately talking about the need to find services specifically oriented to young women who have been left behind, or missed, or trampled over. Young girls we can't be bothered to help find their way, because after all, these kids have never had it so good, right?

This article in Macleans reinforced for me the fight. I originally opened it because it's an interview with Romeo Dallaire, who I believe to be one of the greatest living Canadians. He would disagree; that's what makes him so important. His work in Rwanda should be a life lesson for all of us, and is a testament to the strength of the human spirit even after its been shattered. In this interview, he delves into his new mission - saving the child soldiers being recruited in ever-increasing numbers in Uganda, the Congo, Sri Lanka and Burma. It's appalling. He speaks of the 'value' of the girls, who can also be used as sex slaves, and the fact they can rarely be integrated back into their tribes even if they're saved, because they've been 'spoiled'.

Louise Arbour, a Canadian and High Commissioner for Human Rights is working in a similar role. Her opinion piece in the Star today is a bit of a tough read - listening to her speak is far more effective, but the song is the same. This world tolerates breathtaking crimes against women.

Some other research I was immersed in drove all of this home. There are currently two trials going on in our area with men who have killed their wives as they tried to leave them. One admitted it; one is saying he didn't, though she was gunned down in her school parking lot, and everyone saw him. Sure.

My poking around for stats led me to Dr. Margo Wilson at McMaster, and I found myself reading miles of research she has published with her writing partner. Men kill their wives. They get away with it. Our society has excused it for hundreds of years, and women still risk injury or death whenever they try to take their lives into their own hands. Woman are chattel.

All of these things go together, of course. A woman's value is predicated on her sexuality, her fertile worth at various times in her life. We don't properly protect any of our children, and there is a sliding scale of worth in the legal system.

Ah, enough ranting. Motherlode this week will be in the same vein (surprise) but there are days, and apparently weeks, when I wonder if we've come out of the caves at all.


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