samedi, juillet 30, 2005

chasing away the predators

Speech originally given on July 28, 2005
Award: Best speaker

I ran across a thought-provoking quote a few months ago:
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
-Haile Selassie, 1892-1975, Emperor of Ethiopia
In short,
  • What I do matters.
  • What you do matters.
  • Every single one of us has the power and the responsibility to make a difference.
I was still reflecting on these ideas when I read an amazing story on CNN's Web site.

lions saved her
Ethiopian police say that three lions rescued a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by men who wanted to force her into marriage. The lions chased off her abductors and guarded her until police and relatives tracked her down in a remote corner of Ethiopia.

The men had held the girl for seven days, repeatedly beating her, before the lions chased them away and guarded her for half a day before her family and police found her.

"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo said, adding he did not know whether the lions were male or female.

"If the lions had not come to her rescue then it could have been much worse. Often these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept the marriage," he said.

"Everyone ... thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people," Wondimu said.

Stuart Williams, a wildlife expert with the rural development ministry, said that it was likely that the young girl was saved because she was crying from the trauma of her attack.

"A young girl whimpering could be mistaken for the mewing sound from a lion cub, which in turn could explain why they (the lions) didn't eat her," "Otherwise they probably would have."

The girl, the youngest of four brothers and sisters, was "shocked and terrified" and had to be treated for the cuts from her beatings.

Police have caught four of the men, but were still looking for three others.

The United Nations estimates that more than 70 percent of marriages in Ethiopia are by abduction, practiced in rural areas where the majority of the country's 71 million people live.

the real predators
This story fascinates me, because in the end, it was the lions that chased away the real predators.

I told you this story, not so that you would judge the Ethiopian people for having a marriage custom that is so violent, but to urge you to consider whether you would subject your own daughters, sisters, or nieces to a similar fate.

But this is America, right? We don't let men kidnap girls and then marry them, do we ?

The fact is, we don't even have to look beyond our own borders to find stories of young girls who are forced into marriage. Yesterday's CNN home page included the story of a 22-year-old Nebraska man who is facing criminal charges for kidnapping a 13-year-old girl and having sex with her. The twist: she is now his legal wife at 14 years of age. But before he legally married her in Kansas, he did two other things:
  1. He got her pregnant.
  2. He got her family's permission to marry her.
The fact is, I'm lucky to have been born in the time, place, and family that I was. We live in a country where women have an active role in the Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court. Our nation's cultural, political, and social values give me choices that many women can never even dream of. And my parents' own values encouraged me to seek education and to be an independent woman before I even considered marriage or family. All of these things contribute to my worldview and my belief that forcing a young girl into marriage is completely unacceptable.

I am outraged when I read these types of stories in the media. I'm wary of imposing my values on the rest of the world and ask myself where we should draw the line, both in our own country and outside our borders. But I keep coming back to my belief that there are universal values that transcend nationalities, religion, and culture.

universal rights
The United Nations documented these universal values, immediately following the atrocities of World War II. The UN chose to pursue this monumental effort, largely at the prompting of one woman, an American named Eleanor Roosevelt.

She argued that universal human rights begin "in small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world ... Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world."

The result is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a beautiful declaration of the rights of all men and women, which includes 30 articles, outlining the fundamental rights of humanity. Here are a few:
  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and the right to freedom of opinion and expression
  • Everyone has the right to education.
  • Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
Eleanor Roosevelt understood her duty to the community. She was the most influential member of the UN's Commission on Human Rights and unlike most of the other members, Mrs. Roosevelt was neither a scholar nor an expert on international law. She was, however, enthusiastic and principled. Above all, she had strong humanitarian convictions and a steady faith in human dignity and worth.

With characteristic modesty, Eleanor Roosevelt considered her position on the Commission to be one of ambassador for the common man and woman.

The delegates to the Commission on Human Rights elected Eleanor Roosevelt their Chairperson. The delegates recognized her unparalleled humanitarian convictions. She was widely esteemed as a person who both understood and felt the plight of the common man and woman. She had a keen sense of what the average person expected out of life - what men, women and children needed to flourish as individuals.

Eleanor Roosevelt's concern for humanity made her the driving force behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was a modest woman who passionately pursued what she imagined would become a cornerstone in the struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms for everyone - everywhere.

She lived her life in the center the Twentieth Century's most important events: the Great Depression, World War II, the establishment of the United Nations and the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

She confronted both opportunity and adversity with a sense of optimism and determination.

what you can do
Heed Eleanor’s example and consider what you can do to help the status of women. I've provided a list of three things you can consider that will help women in our community, in the U.S., and around the world:
  1. Donate your old cell phone to the Body Shop by August 31.
  2. Help end violence against American women: Sign the petition today.
  3. Help end violence against women worldwide: Sign the CEDAW petition today.
For those who are skeptical about whether signing a petition to pass yet another treaty can really have an impact, consider this:

The men who kidnapped the girl in Ethiopia were arrested and are currently awaiting trial because of the CEDAW treaty. Ethiopia is a signatory to the treaty and, as a result, recently enacted a law that that prosecutes those who use kidnapping as a means to marriage. The law went into effect on May 9, 2005 this year, the same month that the girl was abducted.

What I do matters.
What you do matters.
And every single one of us has the power and responsibility to make a difference.
Will you do your part to chase away the predators?

Handout that accompanied the speech

Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.
-Haile Selassie, 1892-1975, Emperor of Ethiopia
The Body Shop National Cell Phone Collection
Support the fight to stop family violence. The Body Shop National Cell Phone Collection will sell, refurbish, or recycle donated phones. The proceeds benefit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) and the Wireless Foundation.

Additionally, the Body Shop will donate nearly 1,500 wireless phones to domestic violence shelter partners. These wireless phones will be distributed to victims of domestic violence within our community.

Wireless phones can be dropped off at any of The Body Shop stores through August 31, 2005

The "700 Women" Campaign
Every day in the U.S., 700 women are raped or assaulted by their partners, and an average of four women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.

Join hundreds of thousands of women and men across the country in making sure that the Violence Against Women Act is reauthorized by Congress before it expires in September, 2005.

Urge your Congresswoman/ Congressman to renew the Violence Against Women Act.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) establishes a minimum set of standards for combating discrimination against women.

The treaty has been ratified by over 169 countries. The United States is one of the very few countries in the world that has not yet ratified it, making it easier for repressive governments to easily discount the treaty's provisions.

Urge your Senators to pass this important treaty.

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