International Women’s Day: My Thoughts & Three Conclusions

Author: Rebecca McDonald, President & Founder
March 1, 2022


As I’ve traveled the world, I have heard of horrific stories of the lack of rights, some unrepeatable. In many lands, a woman raped must have a witness because a man’s word is literally worth 2 women. If he comes up with a male witness to say the opposite, she must find 4 witnesses. I’ve discovered faith systems where the women are not allowed to take part in ANY part of the worship. They can cook for the men but have NO say in their faith. Should their family cease to produce a male, their faith dies completely out. Men can get a divorce just by saying so 3 times, but a woman can never divorce. In rare cases, if she does, she will never see her children again. Women are denied school, can’t hold jobs even if trained as doctors or lawyers, must not run a business…the list is endless.

Growing up as an American in lands where women and girls had next to NO rights had a profound effect on me. My home was a safe place where my voice was precious & heard. Being an only girl with 3 brothers helped with the “princess status.” But seriously, my parents took me seriously to the point that my word carried more weight than my older sibling due to our approach to things. I was treated like the oldest child in many ways. Meanwhile, outside my home, my girlfriends had almost no say. They were bought and sold in a marriage contract. The culture even had “marriage brokers” the same way we approach buying a home to find the right details, price, pedigree, etc. for the male family to “consider.”


Three distinct events left an impression on me.

1) You recall my 14-year-old village girlfriend was raped (by family), fought back, and had acid poured down her throat to “silence her” literally.


Nehru: My 14 yr. old girlfriend forever silenced with acid poured down her throat.

2) For the wealthy, it was even harder in some ways with more at stake. I remember 2 upper-class girlfriends. One, the daughter of the Minister of Education, a power elite family, “met and fell in love with” a high-class boy while in the USA getting their education. From the richest Bengali family, it was “OK.” BUT, they had to go through the charade of pretending it was an arranged marriage and they’d never met. Heaven forbid a woman should choose her own path…or a boy for that matter.

3) Then as an adult, I sat in the home of another wealthy family related to the nation’s President who babysat his young son. That night while my son played with the President’s son, their daughter came in angry from university classes. Her father had arranged a marriage to another wealthy family. The sisters of the “groom to be” came to “check her out” looking her up and down in the door of the classroom like she was “a cow for sale at the market.” She complained bitterly that any family whose women treated her like “property for sale” was not a home she wished to marry into. Very simply (so liberal of him), the father just said, “Ok…I’ll look for another.” She walked off happily. I sat thinking about the fact that she was submitting happily to his giving in yet still in charge of who she’d marry.


What Does All This Prove?

Simply that for all our progress as women, we have a long way to go in many lands. I have 3 conclusions from a lifetime of working to empower women.

l) I love America despite its many many flaws. I am a woman that founded an organization and has a voice in any setting and platform I wish to pursue. Yes, it may be that I have had to fight harder, dig deeper, swallow slights…but I am willing to do so if it means lifting the broken, the voiceless, the wounded, the hurting. At the end of the day, there is no slight, indignity, or put-down that compares to those of the lives we represent. So for them, we willingly take up that cross and march on. I’m patriotic not for apple pie, motherhood, or football, but for our right to speak out! I beg you to hold your rights as a privilege and luxury. The day we lose the right to speak freely, we are not a great nation anymore. I know what that looks like. I grew up with girlfriends that had no voice. We must always allow the voice of the silenced no matter whether we like its sound or not. It is what makes us great. When you silence anyone, you give predators power. Our right to free speech in every aspect is truly what sets us apart.

2) I am a mother of 3 boys (& 1 daughter), a sister to 3 brothers, grew up as an American surrounded by the “Taliban mentality,” & work with law enforcement and clergy (male-dominated). I know the world of men and I respect it. I don’t want you to bash my boys any more than my daughter. While we must find rights for women, we must not do it to the detriment of our boys. Fixing a wrong by going to extremes only hurts everyone in the end. I have an article on this on our website. Suffice it to say, All Voices Matter Regardless of Genders. We need to stick together to lift all voices in the fight for freedom.

3) Four decades of being the “Voice of the Silenced” proves those who suffer have the most profound insights. We’d be wise to listen first to them, the experts. They may not have the solutions to the problem politically, legally, or structurally. But their voices should be the template, the mentor, the guard rails that guide significant changes. To fix something without the insight of the experts is to not fix it at all. With 2 ears and only 1 mouth, listen first and twice as long. Then be the voice of the silenced no matter how small you think you are.

Passionate to be the Voice of the Silenced:
Becky

Acoustic Mic Nights

Join the Tea Trade Cafe for a 12-week summer music series every Thursday night from June 8th to August 24th. These evenings will feature amazing local artists, as well as our full menu including fresh sandwiches, wraps, and salads, along with artisan coffees and teas. These events are free! Not only will your attendance support local musicians, but also make an impact on the fight against human trafficking right here in West Michigan.

Every Thursday Night

June 8th – August 24th
6:30 – 8:30
Tea Trade Cafe
2790 44th St SW
Wyoming, MI 49519

Full Line Up

 

June 8th: 2DOGS
June 15th: Eden Witvoet
June 22nd: No performance due to special event
June 29th: Jesse Bolinder
July 6th: Elizabeth Thomas
July 13th: Jim Novak & Paul Cerny
July 20th: Aaron Wienss
July 27th: Kaitlyn Zittel
Aug. 3rd: Daniel Holland
Aug 10th: Carrie Steffen

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

By: Alyssa Evans, WAR, Int’l Intern

Facts:

The month of April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The U.S. Department of Justice defines sexual assault as, “Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” With the rise in awareness, sexual violence has decreased by 63% since 1993 (RAINN, 2015). By dedicating an entire month to this issue, the aim is to keep that number continually decreasing. The reality is that too many people still suffer from sexual assault.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Furthermore, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old (Center for Child Abuse and Neglect).

Women At Risk, International (WAR, Int’l) takes global action against sexual assault and violence by restoring those already affected by these crimes and preventing at-risk women from suffering these injustices. WAR, Int’l fights these crimes year-round, but we ask that you join us in spreading awareness of sexual assault this month.

History:

As women in the late 1970s began “Take Back the Night” marches, protesting the violence women faced when walking down the streets at night, the movement caught global attention. By the early 1980s, October was originally designated as assault awareness month, with its main focus being domestic violence. Eventually, activists wanted a separate month to raise awareness for sexual assault of any and every kind.

In July 2000, The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) was opened, and began surveying several different sexual assault coalitions to dedicate another month, as well as a symbol, to the cause. Finally, they decided on a week in April and a teal ribbon to represent the movement. Yet, attention and awareness grew significantly, and in 2001, April was nationally recognized by the U.S. government as Sexual Assault Awareness  Month (SAAPM).

Now:

Since then, the NSVRC has chosen yearly topics for SAAM to shine a spotlight on. Examples of past themes include sexual assault in communities, the workplace, and college campuses, child sexual assault, preventing sexual assault, training bystanders, and building healthy relationships. This year, the focus is on “Engaging New Voices,” because, as the NSVRC states, “We can’t reach everyone. But we can identify key leaders who will; leaders whose influence is necessary in achieving cultural change not just in April, but all year long.”

Their goal is to reach influential community leaders such as members of Greek Life, coaches, parents, and faith leaders to prevent sexual assault by changing our culture and social norms that allow it to exist. The NSVRC writes, “We’re strongest when we raise our voices together, and that’s why we’re engaging new groups in the movement. These groups can help the next generation foster attitudes that promote healthy relationships, equality, and respect. These new voices will have a ripple effect on those that they teach, guide, and influence.”

Get Involved:

If you’re interested in joining the fight against sexual assault, consider attending and advertising for a local SAAM event, sending a letter to your local newspaper editor, or using your voice to change our culture’s current perception of sexual assault.

In addition to these actions, WAR, Int’l has a Speak Up jewelry line that promotes conversation about having a voice, preventing sexual assault and empowering women. But, the best part about purchasing any of the products in our store is that each item directly supports at-risk women around the world!

Join us in preventing sexual assault this month as we seek to restore the lives of the vulnerable globally. Share articles, write letters, or purchase products that truly make a difference.

Brunch with Becky

 

A candid conversation with mothers & daughters on sexuality and self-image. Join us for a time of learning how to break down social stereotypes in a healthy way, while spending quality time with the special girls in your life. Stay longer shop our WAR Chest Boutique or enjoy a Latte from our Tea Trade Cafe for the ultimate day of mother-daughter bonding.

Registration is Closed

*Intended for ages 12 and older

 

 

Apps that Fight Human Trafficking

Want to fight human trafficking? There’s an app for that.

We can hold a miracle of modern technology in the palm of our hands: the smart phone. With built-in features like high-definition cameras and GPS location, it’s never been easier to communicate in a variety of ways. You can even download extra applications programmed for special tasks, from social media to self-productivity, to access on-the-go.

Human trafficking prevention is no exception. In the fight against trafficking, here are four free apps developed by companies with a heart for ending global slavery.

1. Redlight Traffic

app-1Developed by redlighttraffic.org, this app allows citizens to report suspicious activity that may be related to human trafficking. Users may submit reports under one of three categories: business, person, or vehicle, depending on the context in which they suspect human trafficking. All reports are then shared with local authorities. The app also features a short informational page on how to recognize physical and behavioral signs of trafficking victims.

 

2. The STOP APP

app-1This app is very similar to Redlight Traffic, but with the additional feature of attaching up to three photos and one video with a submitted report. After submitting these images, users are prompted to fill out three brief forms describing who they observed, where they observed, and what they observed. This information then goes directly to STOP THE TRAFFIK’s database.

 

3. Lifeboat ACT Game

app-2Created with interactive features and story-structured gameplay, this app lets users learn how to identify the signs of human trafficking in the people they love. Play as Tommy or Sarah as they watch their friend Macy manipulated into becoming a victim. Identify red flags in the surroundings, along with legitimate reasons for raised suspicions; players can even reach out for lifelines like police officers and reference books if they feel stuck. This app combines education with fun as users learn that everyone can play a role in identifying victims of human trafficking.

 

4. TraffickCam

app-3TraffickCam was specifically created with frequent travelers in mind. Because trafficking victims are often photographed in hotel rooms, this app lets users photograph their hotel rooms and upload them to TraffickCam’s database. These pictures are then analyzed and run against a database of pictures provided by law enforcement to find sex trafficking locations. The app also pinpoints the location of its users when they upload a picture, so that if a match is found, the local authorities know exactly where to look. With an 85% success rate, even the FBI agrees that this app could revolutionize how they conduct their investigations.

 

Don’t have a smartphone, but still want to help? Volunteer for us at Women At Risk, International (WAR, Int’l), or host a shopping party for you and your friends. There are so many ways to contribute in the fight against human trafficking – whether you use a smartphone, or your own two hands.