The irony is not lost on me as I write this post going on almost 48hrs without power. 90,000 other Rhode Islanders lost power as well in the most recent Nor’easter to blow through. Storms and power outages are becoming more frequent and more severe. The climate crisis is here and only going to get worse if we do not take drastic action.
In August Harriet Shugarman of ClimateMama wrote a guest post on World Moms Network about the UN Climate Reportthat called the climate crisis a “Code Red for Humanity”. This week she shared plans to present the organizational letter to demand real action at the upcoming COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow from October 31st through November 12th.
I signed on to the letter for presentation at COP26 crafted by parentsforfuture.org to demand no new fossil fuels. Now is the time to speak up and lend your voice as the world comes together to tackle this pressing global issue.
We demand you take the critical step to end financing and licensing for all new fossil fuel exploration today.
“We are millions of parents from all around the world, writing on behalf of the children we love. We demand that you end financing for all new fossil fuels now.
Our children are being poisoned by toxic pollution from burning fossil fuels with every breath they take. That burning is also the key driver of the climate crisis, which is ruining our children’s futures and destroying our only home.”- Read more
In the best interest of our children, we at World Moms Network are joining in to make our voices heard. Please join in.
Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.
Last month, my county had its 32nd Annual AIDS Walk to pay tribute to those who we have lost, and to support those who are living with HIV/AIDS. Whenever I receive an invitation to this event, I remember a news story I did a decade ago about how child marriage and HIV have common drivers, and what UNICEF was doing to combat child marriage and HIV/AIDS.
Some of the factors that put girls at risk of child marriage also place them at higher risk of HIV infection. These include poverty, low education attainment, and gender inequalities, especially those that limit girls’ ability to make decisions about their own health.
And this year, there is one more factor—COVID-19.
With 25 million child marriages averted in the last decade, UNICEF issued a warning earlier this year that these gains are now under serious threat: 10 million additional girls at risk of child marriage due to COVID-19.
According to the UNICEF analysis, school closures, economic stress, service disruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, despite significant reductions in several countries in recent years. In the last ten years, the proportion of young women globally who were married as children had decreased by 15 per cent, from nearly 1 in 4 to 1 in 5. This is the equivalent of some 25 million marriages averted, a gain that is now under threat.
“COVID-19 has made an already difficult situation for millions of girls even worse. Shuttered schools, isolation from friends and support networks, and rising poverty have added fuel to a fire the world was already struggling to put out. But we can and we must extinguish child marriage,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement.
And the AIDS Walk just reminded me of what these girls have to lose if we do not act urgently – their education, their health, and their futures.
Here is the situation on our hands. When a girl turns 12 and lives in poverty, her future is out of her control. In the eyes of many, she’s a woman now. She faces the reality of being married by the age of 14 and pregnant by the time she’s 15. If she survives childbirth, she might have to sell her body to support her family, which puts her at risk of contracting and spreading HIV. Definitely not the life we would imagine for a 12-year-old.
There is a solution. Imagine rewinding her to age 12. Have her visit a doctor regularly, and help her stay in school where she’s safe. Then she can use her education to earn a living, avoid HIV, marry and have children when she’s ready, and raise happy and healthy children like herself. Now imagine this solution continuing for generation after generation.
COVID-19 is profoundly affecting the solution and the lives of girls in poverty. Pandemic-related travel restrictions and physical distancing make it difficult for girls to access the health care, social services and community supports that protect them from child marriage, unwanted pregnancy and gender-based violence. As schools remain closed, girls are more likely to drop out of education and not return. Job losses and increased economic insecurity may also force families to marry their daughters off to ease financial burdens.
Worldwide, an estimated 650 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, with about half of those marriages occurring in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, India and Nigeria. To off-set the impacts of COVID-19 and end the practice by 2030—the target set out in the Sustainable Development Goals—progress must be significantly accelerated.
“One year into the pandemic, immediate action is needed to mitigate the toll on girls and their families,” added Fore in the same statement. “By reopening schools, implementing effective laws and polices, ensuring access to health and social services—including sexual and reproductive health services—and providing comprehensive social protection measures for families, we can significantly reduce a girl’s risk of having her childhood stolen through child marriage.”
Is child marriage a common problem in your part of the world? What can those of us who live elsewhere do to help?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit: Raphael Pouget/UNICEF.
We all have BEEN THERE, DONE THAT! Rolled our eyes at other kids’ snack boxes filled with French fries, glared at kids settling down with a bag of chips in front of their TV, though there was no hope for the Mom who let her kids pick up the candies near the billing counter at supermarkets and vowed to ourselves we would never be THAT mom…
Yes, that’s how judgmental I was before I became a Mom. My ideal world had a kitchen where there would be sumptuous home-cooked meals every night, school mornings with colorful Tupperware (the coveted brand for durable plastic back in India) snack boxes filled with equally colorful and nutritious snacks of mind-boggling variety and not the same Roti – aloo (Indian bread with potato) and lemon-flavored rice that my Mom bored us to death with, a dining table with fruit baskets filled to the brim and a family for whom dining out was strictly once-a-week indulgence!
And then life happened, kids happened. One vivid memory from my kids’ childhood was the time when my daughter was born and my 4-year-old son was struggling with the huge changes at home. Just when I decided to return to work, he suddenly refused to eat meals, and while at work, I would be teary-eyed and plead to my Mom (who had joined us in Kuwait to help us) on phone begging her to somehow feed him a morsel of rice ..even if he demanded to have his rice with tomato ketchup ????♀️. Oh and then during their early schooling years, there was the stage when I would stock my refrigerator with different canned juices and sausages of all kinds thinking these were nutritious choices for the snack box. Weekends – I was too tired to cook and almost every meal during the weekend was a takeaway or dine-out.
Then as we grew up (yes, I grew up as a parent in ways I hadn’t imagined), we had our share of health issues (be it battling my son’s asthma, my daughter’s eczema, or my own battle with the gastric ulcer). Gradually, we navigated our way around our lifestyle and have found that balanced middle-road solutions work best. My Chef-hubby finally managed to convince us that processed meat of any kind is a big No-No in this household. He would teach me to prepare grilled and shredded chicken in batches on weekends and freeze them in small bags to make sandwiches for hurried school mornings. Our family physician bluntly pointed out to me – when your child is okay with eating fruits, why would you even give them a choice of canned fruit juices! Out went the juice cartons out of the refrigerator only to return on occasional sleepover nights. We also gained the Zen-like wisdom that we would crave for cookies ONLY if the kitchen stocked cookies. So cookies and biscuits or even my children’s favorite Indian savory snack of Murukkus or Chaklis were slowly removed from our regular grocery list. And the baskets loaded with fruits DID become a reality in my household, the mantra being – if you are hungry, grab a fruit. To some of our friends, they still felt like extremist measures. But for a family leaning towards obesity as a genetic trait, a certain (at least a wee-bit) discipline had to be enforced.
More than anything, as an expat Asian, I have realized that sometimes in our zeal to stick to our native cuisine in a foreign land, we forget to appreciate or let our kids appreciate and enjoy the local produce and cuisine. With time, our taste buds became acclimatized to the best of Middle Eastern cuisine too. Bottles of Laban (a delicious beverage made with fermented milk) replaced the canned juices and flavored milk in their school bags. Toum (a creamy Lebanese garlic sauce) became their favorite to go with bread or rotis, instead of Mayo. Now when they return from vacations in India, the intrinsic craving is for Chicken shawarma (Middle-eastern sandwiches with slow-roasted chicken) instead of KFC or McDonald’s. We, adults, have evolved too. The mild, yet immensely flavourful Majboos is slowly taking the place of Biryani in our get-togethers. So going local has made our palate healthy in many ways!
Sometimes, we still give in to indulgences. That urge for instant noodles hits us on occasional evenings. Some weekends, we dine out more than once. But, my day is made when my 12-year-old daughter reminds me as I gaze longingly at the dessert counter at Cheese Cake Factory, “ Amma, you promised not to order dessert.” Or when my son brings me a cup of warm water early in the morning (after having his too) and tells me firmly to skip my morning coffee. Those are the moments when my heart swells with pride.
We may not have accomplished our Utopia, but still have done something right for the children to still make conscious choices while having their occasional indulgences.
As a mother, how have you managed to strike that balance in terms of meal planning without going overboard? Would love to hear your views.
This is an original guest post from Preeti Vijayakumar in Kuwait.
She has spent her childhood across various states of India, but finally, put her roots down in Tamilnadu. Graduating in tourism and hospitality management, some of her best years were spent as an ecotourism professional exploring the relatively unknown parts of India and showcasing them to discerning travelers. Marriage then took her to Kuwait and opened her world a little more, while she continued to work in the corporate travel sector.
But it was only after she had 2 kids that a sabbatical from work made her take up teaching as a stop-gap arrangement and eventually made her realize it was her calling. She now runs a small preschool in Kuwait and also teaches English to students who attend her classes more for the anecdotes and books and stories being discussed than the grammar lessons.
She loves to occasionally write on her blog and staying married to a Chef made her realize that food was one of the greatest and most creative ways of expression too. Raising a cheeky 12-year-old daughter and a rebellious 16 years older son keeps her busy writing and rewriting the parenting rules which can keep her and the kids sane. Her reflections can be accessed at http://ecobuff.wordpress.com
World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good.
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In India, when a girl is born, her parents start saving up. Buying gold, opening fixed deposit accounts, you name it. You’ll now be thinking, “That’s wonderful! Such loving parents❤“. Well, think again.
Here’s a clue – this is NOTher college fund.
They are saving for her (eventual) marriage!
Amusing, right? Why would parents worry about a wedding, when a baby is just born? Shouldn’t they be thinking along the lines of, “Who will wake up for the 3am feed?“, ” What are we going to name her?“, “Look at her tiny nose and fingers and toes!“, “Oh, she is sooo cute!” ????. Sure these thoughts are in their minds. Along with gems like, “OMG! How do we pay for her wedding?” and “I must guard her like a hawk so she doesn’t ‘besmirch’ the family name“. Because, in India, a family’s reputation rests solely on the frail shoulders of the little baby girl!! ????
A vast majority of the Indian subcontinent still prefer a son. I know some folks whose faces fell, right after hearing they had a healthy baby girl. And some others, who preferred not to marry from a family consisting entirely of daughters – because – the women may not be capable of producing a male child! Imagine such thoughts, in this day and age!
A girl is a responsibility to the Indian family. Even if her parents don’t see it that way, the relatives will ensure that her parents eventually fall into this line of thinking. She is on ‘loan’ to them, and her ‘real home’ is supposedly with her husband (and in-laws). Her parents’ duty is simply to ensure she is brought up a well-mannered woman, who doesn’t bring a ‘bad name’ to the family.
From the time she can walk and talk, she hears – “Sit properly!” , “Cross your legs when seated!“, “Stop playing in the sun, no one likes a girl with dark skin“. If she fools around too much, then it is, “You are a girl! Behave like one“. I am curious – is there an instruction manual to explain life rules that apply to females of Indian descent? ????
According to local wisdom, an educated girl may become too ‘difficult to handle‘ after marriage ????. Subscribers to this archaic theory believe that, once educated, a woman may begin to think for herself and not silently accept everything dumped on her. When educated, it is often so she can secure a good match (read ‘husband’), rather than for her benefit or so she can support herself in life.
At home, she is ‘privileged‘ to learn the secrets of cooking and cleaning along with her mother. Her brother is frequently given a free-pass by parents citing, “Oh, he has lots to study“. Obviously a boy’s education is more important than a girl’s, and he doesn’t need to spend time learning life skills! And this ideology imparted to him in childhood towards girls, carries on for the rest of his life.
After working so hard for an education, does she get to pursue a job? Not necessarily. She may have a great job before marrying. After marriage, her holding a ‘job’ may be deemed unsuitable to her husband’s family circumstances. So much so that in India, this is a question of paramount importance to ask the groom’s family when they come to ‘see’ her as part of the bride-seeing ceremony. A strange family decides whether a woman gets to go to work while her own family watches in silence, and tells her “Just adjust my dear. It’s for your good future”.
I know women who were brilliant at their jobs, and then settled down to a life of domestic duties after marriage. Why? Because their husbands didn’t want a wife who went out to work. I know girls who were stopped from learning to dance – all in the name of “What will others’ think?“. Choosing to stop doing something that brings them joy, or to stop working and supporting themselves as they no longer felt fulfilled by it, is something the woman should be able to decide. But having to cave in to pressure from others, and then being made to feel like it was their own choice and for the good of the family – this is how many women are put under invisible shackles by society.
What of women who decide they want to choose their own partner? God forbid! Either cast out, labelled black sheep of the family, or both – she is forever a warning to future generations.
Alright. Now the Indian daughter is (presumably) enjoying wedded bliss. What’s next?
A month into marriage, well-intentioned relatives descend like locusts and ask that dreaded question – “Vishesham vallathum undo?“. Apologies for reverting to my mother-tongue, for there is no other phrase that sounds perfectly innocuous and yet deadly to the new bride! The literal translation is “Is there any news?”. The so-called ‘news’ everyone is awaiting is that of her pregnancy. Regardless of the answer, there is nothing for them to do; but they will persist in asking the question every time they meet the girl or her parents. Strangely enough, they don’t usually ask this to her husband. Hmm….must be because human pregnancies are achieved via parthenogenesis*????
Continuing the family line also seems to be the sole responsibility of a woman. Women are often blamed for failing to give birth to the all-so-desired male ‘heir’. This must be why women are referred to as ‘goddesses’ by the Indian media, since a woman can apparently choose the sex of her unborn child. Many families have persisted in producing progeny till the desired gender (i.e. male) could be achieved, regardless of how many times the woman had to give birth to attain this state.
And thus the vicious cycle begins anew.
Sometimes, the sole purpose of an Indian woman appears to be: be born, stay home, be good and obedient; marry; stay at her ‘real home’ and be good and obedient; and bear sons.
I’ve heard it on a movie once – “Akeli ladki khuli tijori ki tarah hoti hai” – meaning that a girl by herself is like an open safe. She is (supposedly) game for anyone. She must virtually fear for her life if she goes out after dark. In spite of being a country that prides itself on its cultural richness, many men haven’t imbibed that ‘culture’. To them, culture is a woman who stays home after night, has no boyfriends and marries at the right age to someone chosen by their family. If ever found alone or with a member of the opposite sex (maybe she is hurrying home after a day of classes or work, or after buying groceries, or even after a movie with friends) at night, then she is the antithesis of their ‘culture’ who must be punished and ostracised.
What I’ve described here is merely a tip of many icebergs faced by women in India everyday. There are visible and invisible restrictions imposed on them – through family, society, religion, employers, legislation, and even by self.
Is there an escape? Will anything ever change?
Maybe. If parents mold sons into men that respect women, and do not objectify them.
Maybe. If women of the country stop accepting the current state of affairs, and try to change the system by being the change.
Maybe. If men were to challenge the patriarchy that diminishes a woman’s rights, and support them more.
Maybe. If society stops accepting men/boy with the adage “Boys will be boys”, and instead hold them accountable for their actions.
It will take the concerted effort of several generations and education, before women can even hope to be freed from several of these confinements. But most of all, I think, women must begin standing up for themselves and other women to break off the chains. Unless we want something for ourselves, no one else will want it for us.
Be the light for others to follow.
*parthenogenesis: human conception without fertilisation by man
Would you raise your child differently from the culture you grew up in because of his/her gender?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by World Mom Veena Davis of Singapore.
Veena has experienced living in different climes of Asia - born and brought up in the hot Middle East, and a native of India from the state known as God’s Own Country, she is currently based in the tropical city-state of Singapore. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ Several years ago, she came across World Moms Network (then World Moms Blog) soon after its launch, and was thrilled to become a contributor. She has a 11-year old son and a quadragenarian husband (although their ages might be inversed to see how they are with each other sometimes). ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ On a professional front, she works in the financial sector - just till she earns enough to commit to her dream job of full-time bibliophile. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ You can also find Veena at her personal blog, Merry Musing. ⠀
“Abu Dhabi is a great place to raise kids,” said the repair guy in our New York apartment building, about a month before we shlepped ourselves and our two kids halfway around the world. “My brother and his family love it there,” he added.
His words surprised me. Everyone else we talked to worried about our safety; my father-in-law kept asking if we’d made our wills.
That was ten years ago. The repair guy was right. It is safe. I never lock my car; I leave my purse on the table in the coffee shop when I go to the bathroom.
We moved for what I thought would be a year of Big Adventure—but we’re still here and it has been, on balance, a great place to raise kids.
Or at least, that’s my perspective. My kids, who were 7 & 11 when we moved here, have a different view: it’s the most boring place; there’s nothing to do; it’s so hot. Maybe their dissatisfaction is age-appropriate: other than those kids who live in glittery cities like London, New York, Hong Kong, does any kid in the years just before university like where they live?
What I see and my kids can’t, because their ten years here is all they know, is that their center of gravity has been forever shifted. They’re mixed-race American kids who grew up in “Arabia” and went to a British-style school, which meant GCSEs and A-levels and needing boots to play football on a pitch (translation: cleats to play soccer on the field). A mishmash, in short. Not quite third-culture kids but not not third-culture kids.
It’s true that if you live in a big city in the US or Europe, you’re likely going to bump up against other cultures, ethnicities, and languages. As Westerners living in the non-West, though, the learning, or maybe the un-learning, comes from living as a guest, living in a place where yours is not the dominant experience.
Because they’ve grown up in this (boring) Muslim country, my kids are comfortable with practices that are still regarded with suspicion by far too many people in the US (and elsewhere). I remember a few years back when I was about to take a gaggle of boys to the waterpark. “Just a few minutes, Mom,” my son said. “T. is doing his prayers in the other room and then we can go.”
Living in a Muslim country also means adapting to religious holidays that appear according to the lunar calendar: the birthday of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) had been marked on the school calendar as 19 October. . . and will now be celebrated on the 21st. Same with Ramadan: we know approximately when it will start, but the exact date depends on when the moon-sighting committee sees the new moon, which signals the start of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.
Granted, living here also means that when the school year started, my younger son had to dye his hair back to its normal dark brown after a summer of being a glorious silvery lavender, but I think that’s more to do with British prep-school fussiness than anything else. At the American school here, kids have hair in every shade of the rainbow. I reminded him that he’s graduating at the end of this year, and then he’s got an entire lifetime to experiment with wild hair color.
The UAE is a very young country in an ancient part of the world. For the entire decade that we’ve lived here, my kids have delighted in reminding me that I am older than the country, which really isn’t as funny as they think it is. What I hope is that by growing up in a country that is itself growing up, they’ve seen how change is possible: Abu Dhabi, for example, is in the midst of an ambitious plan to transform its economy away from reliance on fossil fuel (there are a lot of Teslas on the roads here). More importantly, they have grown up with the lived experience that the US is not the center of the world. Their adolescent boredom with Abu Dhabi seems to me a small price to pay for that awareness.
After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.