May 10, 2012

Happy Mother's Day! Honoring Mothers By Improving the Lives of Women

This Sunday, we're celebrating Mother's Day. Everywhere in the world a mother is giving birth right now, some by choice, some by the fact of being kept as chattel. Women have attained the highest status in liberal democracies, even though, say, in Norway they fare a lot better than in our own country over all. 

If you want to know a whole lot about a country ask one question: what is the status of women? From the answer, you'll most safely ascertain the level of development, affluence, access to opportunity, legal treatment, economic participation, choices, political regime, and civil freedoms! A great society, a happy society, a more stable society, a healthier society, a nicer society is possible by elevating the status of women to parity with men. This is threatening to traditional societies, primitive cultures, and the American conservatives.

In some places in Africa there's a good chance the mother is infected with HIV/AIDS. It's not here fault, because it's her husband that most likely infected her. And, she's told by her religious leaders that condoms are worst than disease itself.

In Niger, a mother has an average of 8 children, and in much in the poorest countries women spend most of their lives being pregnant and/or caring for little children. In parts of Alabama and Mississippi infant mortality is higher than in Iran. More than one million little children go to bed hungry every night in the US.

Celebrating motherhood has to be more than the activities of one day in the year. We all had mothers, so  it would be nice if we could make their lives better. Take a look at the UN Millennium Development Goals and you'll see that every step we take to fulfilling those goals is a meaningful improvement in the lives of mothers--poverty & hunger, education, gender equality, combat HIV/AIDS, maternal health, etc.

Honoring motherhood begins with treating women better.

The following is from my last year's post, but I think it's worth repeating:

Motherhood cannot be separated from the condition of women in the world today.
UK's The Independent has a great article about that condition. The British government in cooperation with human rights groups have found some very disturbing facts:
  • Two-thirds of the world's 800 million illiterate adults are women as girls are not seen as worth the investment, or are busy collecting water or firewood or doing other domestic chores.
  • Two million girls aged from five to 15 join the commercial sex market every year.
  • Domestic violence kills and injures more people in the developing world than war, cancer or traffic accidents.
  • Seventy per cent of the world's poorest people are women.
  • Violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war.
  • Women produce half the world's food, but own less than two per cent of the land.
  • Of the more than one billion people living in extreme poverty, 70 per cent are women.
  • Almost a third of the world's women are homeless or live in inadequate housing.
  • Half of all murdered women are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.
  • Every minute a woman dies as a result of pregnancy complications.
  • Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, yet earn only a tenth of its income.
  • One woman in three will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
  • 43 million girls are not able to go to school.
  • In 2007, one million HIV-positive women died of AIDS-related illnesses because they could not get the drugs they needed.
  • Human Rights Watch, in reports on 15 countries including Afghanistan, Brazil, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Togo and South Africa, has identified violence against schoolgirls, child domestic workers and those in conflict with the law as on the rise.
  • Women across the developing world are the victims of systematic abuse.

Meanwhile in the good ol' USA

And in our country, the conservatives want to conserve anachronistic views which include discriminating against women. The GOP has insisted on fighting against women's health and choice. It's amazing what these conservatives have been pushing for.. [link]

On the surface someone might think that the recent debate about same-sex marriage is not related to anything else, but indeed, it's an illustration of how a conservative prefers the status quo instead of being open, accepting progressive change. 

While we've waited so long for Obama to ..evolve in his views about the rights people should have, it's becoming clearer by the day that there's a big difference between the progressives and the conservatives in this country and it's getting wider. It's good to see the president finally saying the obvious instead of pandering to those whose vote he would never get. 

Leadership matters in order to change people's views, but most importantly leaders, like FDR, Johnson, and Lincoln, may have to push for changes a conservative society would take so much longer to accept. But, once the benefits of the New Deal, the Great Society, Emancipation, etc, take hold, people accept the new reality and adopt it as their own.  

In 2004, I was working for John Kerry's presidential campaign in Cleveland, OH, and the conservatives had an initiative on the ballot to strictly prohibit same-sex unions. I spoke with many conservative Democrats who simply told me that their marriage would lose value if homosexuals were given legal sanctions! Well, such views were also common in states that were among the first to grand same rights to the LGTB community. Once people saw that MA didn't disappear into the Atlantic ocean and things aren't any different, they accepted the new reality. It's not even an issue anymore in most of the states that have been leaders in this regard.

Wasn't the same for the rights of women back then?...

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