Women’s News: Still Falling in Love With My Husband

Women’s News: Still Falling in Love With My Husband

A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Women’s Health: Zero Tolerance in Our Backyards: Ending Female Genital Mutilation

Women’s Health: Zero Tolerance in Our Backyards: Ending Female Genital Mutilation

Women’s Health: Zero Tolerance in Our Backyards: Ending Female Genital Mutilation

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Taina Bien-Aime

Executive Director of the Women’s City Club of New york

Eight years ago, a teacher called me from Atlanta urgently seeking advice. One of her students, a bright 15-year-old immigrant from the Gambia, confided to Ms. Smith* that she was on her way to New York where she said her father had plans to forcibly marry her to a stranger and subject her to female genital mutilation or FGM. Khadija* needed help. A few days later, Khadija confirmed on the phone that the marriage to a man twice her age had occurred in a Harlem mosque. However, her teacher misunderstood the mentioned procedure. Khadija told me she had been genitally excised as a baby and was scarred. She was scheduled to visit a Manhattan East Side surgeon to “deinfibulate” her to ease the consummation of her arranged marriage.

I paired up with Sanctuary for Families, an agency that provides legal and other services to thousands of victims. We desperately urged Khadija to escape the brutal violence she continued to endure, but the pull of family, culture, isolation and terror were too great for a young girl.

At the time, I was heading the international organization, Equality Now, which in the mid-90s had led the campaign on behalf of another teenager, Fauziya Kasinga, who had fled Togo to evade FGM. Also known as female circumcision and genital “cutting,” FGM is a 5,000 year-old harmful cultural practice that predates any religion. It affects 100 to 140 million women and girls around the world, Muslims and Jews, Christians and animists, mostly in Africa, with sprinkles of countries in the Middle East and Asia. Cases of FGM occur in every country where practicing diaspora families settle.

Deemed a human rights violation by the United Nations, FGM causes severe lifelong physical and psychological consequences that vary with the extent of the practice, from a clitoridectomy to the removal and stitching of a girl’s outer genitalia. FGM is performed to preserve a girl’s virginity until marriage and to control her sexuality.

The Kasinga case propelled the United States to change its asylum laws and enact a federal law prohibiting FGM, with a dozen states following suit, including New York. In 1997, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 168,000 women and girls were at risk or had been subjected to FGM in the U.S.; and the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy condemning it. The public silence around FGM was broken; we were sailing toward its eradication.

Contrary to our hopes and expectations, the government’s efforts stopped there. Unlike anti-FGM movements across Africa and Europe, the U.S. mostly ignores the issue under the pretense of cultural or religious sensitivity. While Khadija can rattle a dozen names of girls like her in New York and Atlanta, immigrant and U.S.-born, no one knows how many are at risk in the U.S..

Only after increased beatings by her “husband” did Khadija’s father allow her to move into his brother’s Bronx home a few blocks away. There, Khadija overheard her aunt calling family in the Gambia announcing their arrival and arranging the “cuts” for her two American daughters. Panicked, Khadija broke the vow of secrecy shrouding the ritual and warned her cousin about what would await her the summer after third grade. The terrified child told a teacher who cautioned the parents about possible immigration troubles if FGM occurred. The girl’s baby sister, however, may not have been spared.

“Education is very important in communities like mine,” Khadija says today. “The adults who care for us in one way or another can’t afford to feel scared or threatened to speak up about FGM just because we’re African. Our lives depend on it.”

Khadija, now 23, remains a feisty young woman who is writing her autobiography while juggling a full-time job and raising two small children. She belongs to a growing cadre of FGM survivors who are speaking out against the practice.

“Providing support to these young women who are forging the next wave of anti-FGM advocacy is key,” says Archi Pyati, the Deputy Director of Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project who offers legal services to hundreds of women and girls from countries where FGM is practiced. “They have had enough and are not willing to suffer in the shadows anymore.”

The struggle continues to bear its fruits. After three years of negotiations under the persistent leadership of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), President Obama signed the Girls Protection Act last month, closing a loophole in the federal law. Like the states of Georgia and Nevada, the U.S. now prohibits the transport of a child from the country for purposes of FGM. Questions abound as to how this law will be enforced and some are concerned that focusing solely on punitive measures could further marginalize those communities. Laws are key tools in social change and strong deterrents; this law will undoubtedly protect girls. However, we also need parallel strategies for sensitive community outreach and for developing strong and relevant protocols for FGM prevention.

Feb. 6 is the Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM when thousands around the world meet, march and mandate their governments to hasten efforts in eradicating FGM. New York is shamefully behind. At the very least, we must follow Rep. Crowley’s leadership and ensure that the state law is amended to include his “vacation provision.” Care providers must also take a stand and walk side-by-side with trailblazers like Khadija.

“Women have been maltreated for centuries in the name of culture, religion and tradition,” Khadija concludes. “I’ve broken the chain and my daughter is safe, but so many are not. No girl deserves to go through the inhumanity of FGM. It’s our responsibility to change the course of history; FGM is not going to end on its own. ”

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/taina-bienaime/zero-tolerance-our-backyards_b_2623425.html?utm_hp_ref=womens-health

A Message From The Creator

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Women’s News: Still Falling in Love With My Husband

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Amy Julia Becker

Author, ‘A Good and Perfect Gift: Faith, Expectations and a Little Girl Named Penny’

I remember the first time I celebrated Valentine’s Day with the man who is now my husband. I was a senior at a boarding school in Connecticut. Peter and I had been together since October, and at that point, each month that rolled by warranted celebration. Valentine’s Day came on the heels of our four-month anniversary, but I combined those momentous occasions into one event and convinced my faculty advisor to allow me to use her kitchen to cook dinner. I don’t remember the menu, but I’m pretty sure the evening involved a white tablecloth and candlelight and that wonderful feeling, that lightness and giddiness and excitement, of finally being in love with a boy.

We stopped celebrating Valentine’s Day a few years later, as both of us grew discontent with the idea that we single out one day each year to emphasize romance. We stopped celebrating our monthly anniversaries too, as months turned into years. We’ve been married nearly fourteen years and we have three children, so our lives are now measured by report cards and snow days and physicals for the kids. I could never have predicted some of the changes we’ve experienced — that we would stay together through five years of long-distance dating, or that I would marry an investment banker who would later become a teacher, or that we would have a daughter with Down syndrome and be forever transformed by her presence in our lives. The changes have surprised me, but I am equally surprised and delighted by the things that have stayed the same.

I used to tell people that ours was an easy marriage, that for some inexplicable reason, we had been given the cosmic gift of being able to love each other easily and well. And on some level, it’s true. But I also look back on the times we have had to forgive one another, or ask for forgiveness; the way he was willing to change his patterns of communication (less yelling) so that I could hear him; the way I started speaking more directly so that he could hear me; the way we have given to and taken from one another — and I have started to believe that falling in love again and again takes a lot of very hard work.

We still don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. But we go out to dinner once a week, every week. Thursday night has been our “date night” for almost a decade now. It’s expensive, this staying in love stuff. It literally has cost a lot of money, and it has cost even more time. We have the benefit of my mother, who willingly babysits our children once a week to offer us this night together. But it still means we often forfeit other “important” people and tasks — work, friendships, movies, even sleep — in order to sit down together and have an uninterrupted conversation. And it means that we force ourselves to have the unpleasant discussions that might otherwise pass us by as the torrent of our life flows forward.

On Thursday nights, we talk about the struggle I have as a part-time writer who manages our household while he works more than full-time. We talk about the tough time Penny is having making friends and how not to lose our tempers with William and how to try to rein Marilee in when she pretends to be older than she is. We laugh a lot on those date nights. But many of them also involve tears.

Even though date night often looks like a joint therapy session, it also brings me back to the reasons I fell in love with Peter in the first place. On a week when I don’t see much of him because work and family pull us apart, I often keep a list of topics I want to share — a news story I thought he’d appreciate, a funny thing one of our children said, an idea I have for an essay, some advice I need. And even though I’m not one for shopping or copious applications of makeup, and even though my childrearing years have offered me extra pounds around my middle and extra lines around my eyes, I still get dressed up on Thursday nights. I put on earrings. I take off my Dansko clogs. I wear mascara. I get dressed up for him to affirm what he assures me he sees day in and day out. Despite the years, he still sees me as beautiful.

Many aspects of my life have changed since that winter day in February of 1993. We have wounded each other. We have helped one another heal. We have taken care of each other in sickness and in health, through his mother’s illness and death from liver cancer, through the early days of Penny’s diagnosis of Down syndrome, through harrowing sleepless nights with our son, through the chaos of adding a third child to our family, through moves and master’s degrees and career changes, through petty betrayals and the slog of reconciliation.

But one thing has stayed the same. I am still in love with that boy. It is a feeling that has now been grounded in the real stuff of pain and death and suffering and beauty and joy and healing, but the lightness, the giddiness, the excitement, the wonder — that he counts me as belonging to him and he to me — that wonder remains.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-julia-becker/falling-in-love_b_2630247.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

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