Katherine’s story for International Women’s Day 2018

 

For International Women’s Day, we celebrate the women who have helped shape our past, those who fight for our future, and those who press for present day progress. At Misión México, we recognise and celebrate the women behind the scenes, the women who fill our home with love, life and hope, the woman who started it all and the young women that are still rising. This real-life story is dedicated to all of the work that is achieved thanks to these women and the work of Misión México, and to one woman in particular, Katherine. This is her story.

 

Who is Katherine?

A story that is important, unique and inspiring for all individuals, especially those from difficult backgrounds and especially for women like Katherine. Katherine is from Tapachula in Chiapas, one of the poorest regions of Mexico. Like many others, Katherine and her family had little options. As a teenager, Katherine’s education came under threat when it was felt that her joining the workforce would be more beneficial for her family, financially and because the importance of education for females was misunderstood.

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Second chances

Luckily, a teacher at school recognised her talents and helped support Katherine by seeking out ways for her to not only continue her studies, but to make plans for higher education. This is where Misión México comes in! Misión México is a refuge for children that provides education, safety and opportunity whilst bringing love, life and hope back into their lives. Katherine joined our Misión Mexico family as a teenager where she was supported financially, emotionally and practically so she was able to continue her studies and move forward to Prepa. Every year she would finish amongst the top n her class, and along with her grades, Katherine’s confidence and self-belief flourished too.

 

Katherine’s dream

As her confidence and knowledge grew, so did her dreams. Katherine wanted to go to university, study medicine and become a doctor so that she could give back to the people of Mexico and help the poorer communities. How incredible is that?

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Breaking the cycle of poverty

The incredible twist to this story is the ripple that her education caused. Founders of Misión México. Pam and Alan Skuse helped Katherine maintain a healthy relationship with her biological family whilst naturally becoming her second Mum and Dad. At Katherine’s prepa graduation, Katherine’s biological and new-found Mum sat side by side and watched her stand on stage, receive her higher education certificate (one of the top on the class) and prepared for her next step – medical school. Katherine’s mum turned to Pam and said “I am so thankful you, Alan and Mision Mexico came into my family’s life. You have shown me that girls in Tapachula can get an education and how important that is. You have helped my daughter achieve her dream and shown me that all my daughters should dream”.

You can read Pam and Alan’s graduation letter to Katherine here…

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Where is Katherine today?

A few years ago Katherine returned to live with her biological family so that she could support and encourage her sisters to remain in school and focus on their education, but would often return to Misión Mexico to visit her second family and to help, inspire and tutor other children in our home.

Thanks to support from donations and education sponsors, Misión México is able to continue to financially support Katherine’s dreams and was also able to support her family’s education. Katherine´s Education Sponsor, Susan has been sponsoring Katherine throughout her medical degree, and it’s thanks to people like Susan that we can continue our mission. You can read Katherine´s heartfelt letter to Susan here; 

Dear Susan-1

Katherine graduated university in December 2017, remaining one of the top students in her class. She is currently completing an internship in a San Cristobel hospital, and continues to be supported by Misión Mexico and her sponsor, Susan through our Adult Independent Program scholarship.

Katherine’s mum, who never believed that a female in Tapachula needed an education, returned to school part time and is studying her own secondary qualifications.

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How can you help?

Katherine and her family have made incredible steps that are changing their lives. But so many women and children will never receive these opportunities. Mexico itself is a dangerous place to be a woman, where every day roughly six women are murdered in gender-related cases. 781 million adults are illiterate worldwide, two-thirds of these are women. And although girls are achieving higher academic rates at school in many countries, many will not complete their education fully, many will end up working in unpaid labour at home and with their family, and many will not receive the same wages as their male colleagues.

  • You can get involved by becoming an Education Sponsor for one of our girls, or by sending donations today! Contact events@lovelifehope.com for more information.
  • Volunteer! Run projects! And visit us in Tapachula! We’re currently recruiting for April 2018 and onwards. So, if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact us via social media or apply at volunteer@lovelifehope.com
  • Follow, share and support us on social media

https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/

https://twitter.com/mision_mexico

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

 

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What is FGM? Everything you need to know to join the fight against it.

FGM is rarely spoken about, heard about or known about. But why is this the case when it affects over 200 million women and girls? How can we have gender inequality when 200 million women and girls are violated every single day through the practices of FGM?

 

So what is it?
FGM stands for female genital mutilation. It’s the intentional harm, alteration and/or injury to the female genitals. Globally, over 200 million women and girls have been cut with many more at risk. FGM is a violation of human rights for girls and women.

WHO have identified 4 main types of FGM:
Type I – Clitoridectomy
This which sees partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce.

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Type II – Excision
Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora. The amount of tissue removed varies from community to community.

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Type III – Infibulation
The narrowing of the vaginal orifice with a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and re-positioning the labia minora and/ or the labia majora. Can take place with or without the removal of the clitoris.

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Type IV
All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.

Why is it performed?
FGM is a manifestation of deeply entrenched gender inequality. It is mainly practiced in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but affects girls worldwide, including here in the UK. It’s supported and practiced by both men and women, with the common belief being that the cultural and social benefits outweigh the risk and dangers. (WHO 2008).

The reasons given for practicing FGM generally fall into four categories:

Psychosexual reasons: FGM is carried out to control women’s sexuality, which is sometimes completely affected leaving women feeling no sense of pleasure depending on the cut. It is thought to ensure virginity before marriage and fidelity afterward, and to increase male sexual pleasure.

Sociological and cultural reasons: In some communities, FGM is a part of a girl’s initiation into womanhood, it’s a huge part of tradition. The myths that an uncut clitoris will grow to the size of a penis, or will increase fertility, help promote the practice.

Hygiene and aesthetic reasons: In some communities, the external female genitalia are considered dirty and ugly and are removed, ostensibly to promote hygiene and aesthetic appeal.

Socio-economic factors: In many communities, FGM is a requirement for marriage. Where women are largely dependent on men, economic necessity can be a major driver of the procedure. It’s also a major income source for the ‘cutters’.

Why is FGM different to circumcision for boys?
For women and girls there are immediate and lifelong complications. Immediate complications include:
– Severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urine retention, wound infection, urinary infection, and septicaemia. The haemorrhage and infections can be severe enough to cause death.
Long-term consequences include:
– As well as medical complications such as anaemia, the formation of cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and complications during childbirth, FGM has severe psychological effects.

Type III (infibulation) creates a physical barrier which makes sexual intercourse, childbirth, menstruation and even urinating difficult. Women are often cut open for sex and childbirth because there’s simply no space for anything to come in or out.

The procedure and effects of FGM are extremely harmful and severe. The hidden practice effects girls worldwide and is not spoken about enough. As well as protecting and supporting the survivors of FGM, we need to be raising awareness and providing the knowledge that FGM is wrong, dangerous and fatal.


You can do your bit here:

– Look at Aida Silvestri’s ‘Unsterile Clinic. A project to help raise awareness of the practice of FGM.
– Watch Call The Midwife (Season 6, Episode 6).
– Read Cut: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today by Hibo Wardere
– Support organisations and NGO’s like
http://www.dofeve.org
http://28toomany.org/
https://plan-uk.org/about/our-work/fgm

 

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to share and comment

Vanisha

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Follow me on instagram and twitter @vanishamay 


 

Hearts for humanity on international women’s day 2017. 

International Women’s day is a day to reflect on the progress we have made for an equal world, to hope for the future, to have courage for change, and to celebrate those who have had all kinds of impact on their countries, communities and throughout history.

 

After marching at the #march4women hosted by Care International in London last Sunday, I felt incredibly empowered and ready to take on the world. The inspiration was in the atmosphere and the hope and ambition of every single person in the crowd was amplified, including my own. After dealing with what seemed to be a hopeless situation where the word ‘feminism’ is still misunderstood and gender is still so binary, I felt like people were finally opening their minds and climbing on board for the fight for equality.

 

But this was soon shot down. Thanks to me flushing my phone down a public toilet in Shoreditch (cry), I caught up on the events of the day on Facebook from my laptop and was stunned by the amount of backlash and negativity in the comments which included things like this….

 

Woman 1: So sick of these women’s marches – I’m a women and I find the whole gender equality, pro-abortion thing disgusting – get back in the kitchen and make your families Sunday lunch!!!

 

Man 1: All I see is hundreds of women that just need a good hard shag. After that they will be fine! Think of all of the men going hungry this lunch time. This is inexcusable

 

Man 2: What is it women feel the need to be equal to in the year 2017

 

Man 3: I respect my woman especially when she gets my dinner on the table at a decent hour

 

Man 4: Ffs hear we go again

 

And these were just five of many! By this point I was shouting “make your own damn dinner” at my laptop screen and had lost all hope….

 

Well my anger has since settled and I realised the importance of differentiating opinions, freedom of speech along with raising my voice to help people understand these issues better. And also how similar my questions were to these ridiculous comments. I found myself also questioning why women felt the need to be equal in 2017? Why again? Why on earth are we still trying to resolve these issues? I’m sick of the marches! ‘Hear we go again’ in 2017, still campaigning and hoping for global gender equality. Without a doubt, ‘inexcusable’….

 

Every day for me is a blessing, and for the majority of you reading this, you’ll know how extremely lucky  we are in so many ways. Which is why empathy is so important and I believe plays a huge part in being a good person. (Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another). And these comments are proof that many of us are simply lacking basic human empathy.

 

So how serious are the issues anyway? Listen ‘hear‘…

The UN report ‘The World’s Women 2010’ shows just some of the dire gender disparities in current situations:

  • Out of 774 million illiterate adults worldwide, 2 out of 3 are women.
  • 70% of the poorest people in the world are women.
  • Women own 1% of the world’s land.
  • 72 million primary age children are out of education. 54% of these are girls.
  • 2 million women are victims of genital mutilation every year.
  • Approximately 70 million women and children were subject to sex trafficking in Asia in the last ten years.

 

On top of these statistics, our current global refugee crisis means millions more women are without their rights and extremely vulnerable. Although many of you seem to think refugees are flooding in to the UK with hopes to take our jobs and housing, actually 86% of the 65 million refugees are displaced in developing countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ethiopia. Our effort in the U.K today is just one big joke.

 

These are normal people who never imagined that they would be in these circumstances. People who were in education, people with homes and 9-5 jobs. People like you, and people like my own family who fled from Uganda in 1972 leaving their businesses, cars, homes and belongings to come to the UK where they knew no-one, did not know the language and were given sanctuary in centers, all in a cold, snowy winter when they’d never seen snow before! It seems unimaginable, but I think about my own family, then I watch the news and actually it’s extremely real.

 

One of the reasons I struggle to sleep at night and one of the reasons I know I’ll spend my life in these areas of conflict, is simply because I cannot switch off. My mind is constantly thinking about the help we can give, the ways we can give that help, the places we can start, and the people we can start with. It’s normal for me. But for those who are struggling to understand the seriousness of feminism, gender equality and the refugee crisis, for those who maybe don’t feel the same way, ask yourselves for humankind, please find human empathy for the people who are suffering through no fault of their own, who flee their homes and everything they know in fear and terror, for women stuck in detention centers and are unsafe in refugee camps, for girls who will never see inside a classroom, for all refugees in these situations, and for all women around the world and for those women right next to us. Find your hearts for them.

 

We are failing humans on huge scales. We must do more.

 

“I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard” – Malala Yousafzai. It’s so important for people like you and me to use our platforms and dare to be bold. So how can you celebrate international women’s day, and what can you do today?

 

  • Spread the word and use your voice through conversations and writing to your MP.
  • Sign a petition or two, or three.
  • Wear red to show support worldwide
  • Follow events from the day all over social media and share, like and use the hashtag #beboldforchange which is this year’s campaign theme.
  • Donate to the many women and refugee organisations.

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

http://www.womenforwomen.org.uk

http://www.careinternational.org.uk

 

And check out these events if you’re London based…

London – Wednesday 8th March, 18:00pm – BE Unplugged ‘Disrupting the Future: Passion, Purpose and Change

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-unplugged-disrupting-the-future-passion-purpose-and-change-tickets-31879903650

London – Saturday 11th March, 12:30pm – Million Women March and Rally

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/million-women-rise-march-and-rally-tickets-32049705532?aff=erelexpmlt

 

Start today and join the movement to promote basic human rights and values #beboldforchange

 

Thank you 🙂

V

The Fashion of Feminism

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieWe Should All Be Feminists

 

So, my second blog is all about, guess what? Gender. Not only because it’s one of my favourite subjects to talk about but because Wednesday 8th March is International Women’s Day. And because I need a distraction from my dissertation which is due in exactly 70 days. Probably not the smartest idea but here we go…

 

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the commercialisation and the trendiness of ‘girl power’ and what it means to be a feminist in 2017. Feminism is finally cool and trendy, but are we missing the point? Feminism is not about hating men and wearing Topshop t-shirts that say ‘girls bite back’. Feminism is the fight for economic, political, social, cultural equality and for the personal and human rights of women worldwide. It’s equality, and choice, and freedom, and opportunity. Feminism is for the girls that get shamed for being virgins, but at the same time shamed for being sluts. Feminism is for the 700 million women alive today that were married before the age of 18. Feminism is for the estimated 60-100 million women and girls literally ‘missing’ from the planet due to infanticide, sex-selective abortion and fatal neglect. Feminism is for all of us. But have we forgotten this?

 

Which is why I’m struggling with the modernity of it all, and although many of you may be surprised, I’m gonna use Beyoncé as my main example. Beyhive, brace yourselves. I feel that the future of feminism and the real reasons for the importance of it all is becoming tedious and silly thanks to mainstream media and the fashion of being a feminist. Are we commodifying the issues and struggles that affect at least 49.6% of the worlds population? I feel that people are buying into the fad of it, but have no real knowledge of the point of being a feminist, or for those who don’t like the term, for the real fight for equality and lives that depend on it.

 

Andi Zeisler talks about the issues with marketplace feminism and the rise of celebrities jumping on the ‘feminist bandwagon’ in her book “We Were Feminists Once”. Here we have a generation of girls completely lapping up everything to do with ‘girl power’, (and don’t get me wrong, I’m digging most of it) but I’d like to think I’m quite educated on the subject and passionate about the issues surrounding gender inequality. Well hopefully, otherwise these last few years at uni were a waste and I need to re-think my whole future career. The issue that I have is that although it’s all well and good that we can showcase our feminism more, how is it actively and affectively changing our situations?

 

Watching Beyoncé at the O2 arena a few years ago nearly bought a tear to my eye. The words FEMINISM in huge letters behind her while she sings about running the world. Amazing. And thanks to her performances, millions of people of all genders, people like me, felt the empowerment and solidarity that feminism is all about. She’s an incredibly strong, powerful and successful woman. But she’s also a successful businesswoman and brand. And the realisation of singing a song, or singing along to a song could be all that we have to offer feminism in a 21st century was pretty poop. Although it could be a start, it’s not enough for the real struggles girls face around the world. Beyoncé is not alone, along with other celebrities, the same could be said for companies such as Always with their #LikeAGirl campaign and Pantenes’ #ShineStrong campaign, companies that are ‘femvertising’ to the fullest. Here we see the rise of hashtag feminism, likes, shares and “stories told in 140 characters”, but where videos like Pantene promotes the ideas that women are too apologetic, while having ‘swishy, shiny hair’, is this fourth wave of feminism selling the fight for feminism or selling their brands in the name of feminism? As Zeisler says “The important thing is to have a degree of literacy about it” which is something that is missing from mainstream media and those following marketplace feminism.

We have come a long way though. People are finally embracing feminism, and celebrities using their platform to promote equality whether it be women’s right or black rights is not all bad surely?

 

The scandal that could suggest where feminism is going wrong is the Ivy Park scandal that we saw last year. Picture this: Beyoncé and her team of all women dancers, on a stage in front of millions, with a speech by the legendary Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the words feminism in bold, big letters behind her, then on comes ‘Who Run The World?’. Meanwhile, in South Asia, are the women workers who are making Beyoncé’s (who has a net worth estimate of £216million) new clothing line ‘Ivy Park’ for Topshop (a net worth estimate of $6.7billion), for an outrageous 52p per hour in cramped conditions where they have restricted freedoms, curfews at night, no kitchen spaces and share with men. My fangirling for Beyoncé was pretty shattered at this point, and everything she did after this including her infamous ‘Lemonade’ album where she supposedly ‘embraces feminism’ but is aggressive, slates other girls, and talk about how ‘bomb her pussy is’, makes me question what on earth she wants us to celebrate. Is feminism just a platform for her and other celebrities and companies to make money and mess with the movement?

 

I’m not about to delete all my Beyoncé and Taylor Swift songs off my itunes, for the same reason I’m not about to stop using Dove when I shower, because as brands and as music artists, I love them, I can’t fault them there. But as feminists? I think they’ve got a few things very wrong.

 

Issues like this, along with analysing some of the many ‘empowering’ songs that even I have on my ‘girl power’ playlist, are some of the reasons why I’m going to ask myself, and you, to challenge the fad of feminism, to do your research, to question the trend, and to remember the importance of the real issues that girls face in the world, just because they are girls.

 

For the 125 million girls who are out of education, for the girls who are growing up in situations where society tells them “It is more profitable to raise geese than a girl” (Yep, a traditional Chinese saying), for your friends, for your sisters, for your mothers, for yourselves, and for everyone, let’s focus on the importance of equality.

 

For those of you that are interested, here are a bunch of documentaries available on Netflix and online that highlight some of the issues girls face:

  • The Hunting Ground
  • Born into Brothels
  • The True Cost
  • India’s Daughter
  • Finding Home
  • Audrie & Daisy
  • Missrepresentation
  • It’s A Girl
  • The Invisible War
  • Half the Sky

 

International Women’s day is next week, Wednesday 8th March. You can join in at these events:

London – Sunday 5th March, 12pm – March 4 Women by Care International

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/march4women-registration-30692401800?aff=erelexpmlt

London – Wednesday 8th March, 18:00pm – BE Unplugged ‘Disrupting the Future: Passion, Purpose and Change

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-unplugged-disrupting-the-future-passion-purpose-and-change-tickets-31879903650

London – Saturday 11th March, 12:30pm – Million Women March and Rally

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/million-women-rise-march-and-rally-tickets-32049705532?aff=erelexpmlt

 

https://www.internationalwomensday.com/

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Feedback is appreciated 🙂

xox