Celebrating Women: International Women’s Day

 

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I’ve been a long-time advocate for women and girls because I believe in the beauty, strength and value they possess. In many places throughout the world, women and girls are still marginalized, abused, treated unjustly and under-valued. Their unique gifts never opened.

To the women of the world… May you know that you are LOVED.

You are seen. You deserve to be heard. You are worthy of all life has to offer you. You are capable of greatness. You don’t ever need to compete with others, because you are enough. Your gifts and talents can never be taken from you, they are yours and yours alone. You do not have to settle for less. You have a voice. You have a place. Right here, right now. You were born with a purpose. Your destiny is calling you. You don’t need to be hard to make an impression because the gentleness of your heart is your strength. Your mind is an asset. Your heart and thoughts filled with love and possibility will guide you. Your dreams were given to you for your fulfilment and to spill out into the world. Dream big dreams. Even if you don’t believe them yet, keep dreaming them until you do. Keep your faith. Believe that God loves you and you are worthy of love. You do not need to fear. Take hold of courage and expect to find goodness in uncommon places. Look for love and you will find it because it’s already looking for you. Breathe in life, because it is short and you don’t want to miss any opportunity to see, really see, what can be. Teach your daughters the same. And whatever you do, don’t settle. You are worthy.

“I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Scars Speak

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What comes to mind when you read the word SCAR?

A scar can be left over from a surgery or a “trophy” on a veteran of war. It can be a reminder of a painful accident or a traumatic physical assault. And not all scars are visible to the eye. Sometimes we carry internal scars caused by wounds from a verbal assault, emotional or psychological damage.

“We’re stronger in the places we’ve been broken.” – Ernest Hemingway

One thing all scars have in common is they tell us that at some point in time, trauma occurred. They also tell us by their nature, the incident that caused the trauma happened in the past. The hurt may or may not remain, but the scar always does.

Some may look at their scars and be unaffected or even laugh because they don’t have any recollection of the actual incident. They may have had surgery and been under anesthesia. Or, they may have received their wound in an accident but their memory of the event has been erased.

There are some people, however, who have to look in the mirror and live with negative memories associated with their scars every day. They are the ones I’m writing about today. Scars caused by abuse, neglect or violence. Their scars are a constant and merciless reminder of pain. The relentless pain of hatred, rejection or violence against their person or spirit. Those memories summon our worst nightmares and haunt us with torment. Sometimes the scars taunt as if to say, “You deserved what you got” or “You’ll never be good enough. You’ve got the scars to prove it”. They are reminders of the powerlessness in abusive encounters. To some, a permanent warning sign to stay inside an imposed boundary. And they can’t be erased. The most we can do is cover them so the world can’t see. Because if the world sees them, they will wonder how our scars came to be, and we can’t bare to reveal or re-live the trauma.

Donita’s mother burned her with cigarettes and left scars from beatings with an iron hanger. Veronica’s uncle sexually assaulted her and her sister leaving a different set of scars. The pain of shame on top of sexual assault with the pressure of keeping a secret no girl should have to bare. Morgan’s arm is scarred with needle marks from a life she desperately wants to forget from her drug-addicted past. As beautiful as she is, Chandler wears scars under her clothes from cutting. No one knows because she masks it with a fake smile. Shauna wears long sleeved blouses and lots of bracelets to cover her wrists after attempting suicide. Makeup and jewelry cannot completely hide years of abuse to Trina’s face and neck at the hands of an abusive husband. Women and girls with faces and bodies acid-burned by their own husbands, fathers, brothers and family members–people they should’ve been able to trust to love and protect them. Every single scar from abuse cries out, “Why me?” Our faces, our bodies, our minds and our spirits are such a deep part of our identity. When we are assaulted in any way that is meant to inflict injury and pain by another, visible or not, it is inexcusable. When it is self-inflicted pain or abuse, we hurt and scar the same.

Thankfully, as the saying goes, beauty truly can come from “ashes”. We can rise to a better place. The other thing that all scars have in common is they Tell a Story. Your story. A very personal story. A painful story. A pain-filled story. But yours, nonetheless. So what’s so great about having a personal painful story? Nothing. That is, nothing in and of itself. But your scars, our scars, tell us and the world, “I am here!” They say without speaking a word, “I lived through it!” THAT is the story. THAT is the grace. It is your badge of courage. It says you are a fighter, a victor.

The truth is, the scars are proof that you made it through. You are meant to be here. And maybe one day, you will come to understand that you lived (or made it through the pain) to tell your story so that others can learn from it. And in so doing, what someone tried to take away from you, (your confidence, self-worth, freedom, identity, voice) ended up positioning you to give strength (and courage and hope) to another. And in the process, gave you back the voice no one could ever truly take.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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America: We Can Choose Better

American Flag (Kevin Morris)

I’ve been thinking a lot about the current personal, national and now global discourse about our nation. About our future. About our families. About us as unique individuals. Sadly, the “discussion” phase buckled under the weight of disrespect, mistrust, hatred, violence and eventual anarchy. Tidal wave after tidal wave of blame. I suppose it’s nothing new to the human race. But it’s ugly and messy and us not at our best. We can choose better.

People are fighting for what they say they believe in for the whole. But in so much of the activity, it is not. It is for themselves. When our soldiers fight for our nation, they check their political party and personal beliefs at the door. Why? Not because these things aren’t worthy. Because they believe in something much greater than their own personal preferences and opinions. They are fighting together to secure and strengthen something that transcends the individual struggles. And importantly, they know that unity matters. There is power in unity. The same goes with families. Healthy families choose to go higher. They choose the greater good. When we step outside of our personal protective walls, we can see a world much bigger than ourselves. Humanity seems to trip on “self” a lot.

Unfortunately, we have come to a place in history where we can’t even agree on the definition of “greater good”. Therein lies the rub. A nation divided against itself. Sounds cannibalistic. And because of our collective intolerance, pride and catering to self-interest, we’re about to lose much more than an eye. I would like to see a nation fighting together, not AGAINST itself, fighting FOR its common good. But then again, we can’t seem to agree on what “common” means anymore either.

Sounds dismal. And it is, if you believe that’s the end. But it’s not. We still have the freedom to dream, create, build, speak, worship and to “become”. To become smarter, braver, kinder, more reasonable, giving, thoughtful, compassionate, prayerful, wiser, loving and discerning than we were before. But it’s a choice. It’s always a choice. Who do you want to become?

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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International Women’s Day 2014: “Inspiring Change”

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY is a day to celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future with participants and advocates around the globe. Each year the United Nations declares an annual theme. The theme for International Women’s Day 2014 is “Inspiring Change”. View themes for previous years.

The vast array of communication channels, supportive spokespeople, equality research, campaigns and corporate responsibility initiatives means everyone can be an advocate inspiring change for women’s advancement. -International Women’s Day

It is a day we are challenged to make a difference by “thinking globally and acting locally.” Thousands of events are held annually on March 8th to inspire, challenge, and celebrate the achievements of women around the world. Whether they are business or government-related, social or networking events, the world stops to take notice of the progress and impact of women in and on our societies. Other events will focus on uplifting, inspiring, or commemorating women through the telling of history, by serving us through education, or through a variety of artistic presentations. Whatever form it takes, and wherever we are individually, we will celebrate the achievements, advancements, and value of women, with a combined voice.

For a brief history and timeline of International Women’s Day, visit InternationalWomensDay.com.

What does the 2014 International Women’s Day theme “Inspiring Change” mean for you personally?

Follow the conversation on Twitter at Women’s Day 2014 and use hashtags #womensday and #IWD2014.

Related Reading:

International Women’s Day 2013: You’ve Come a Long Way Baby… But We’re Not Done Yet!

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Remembrance Day: Never Forget

Six million Jews were murdered under Germany’s state-sponsored persecution and Nazi rule during the Holocaust.

While targeted persecution of the Jews began in 1933, the mass murder was committed during World War II. It took the Germans and their accomplices four and a half years to murder six million Jews. (From April to November 1942 alone–only 250 days–two and a half million Jews were murdered). It’s incredibly hard to even imagine.

Today we remember the Jewish people and we must never ever forget. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that history will repeat itself (in the case of Nazi Germany or any other place where genocide has occurred, or where the murder of innocents is in any way permissible) unless we do more than just obtain knowledge or take care to remember.

We must be vigilant to stand for life, liberty and freedom for all people groups, and for humanity in all of its forms. We must commit to staying awake, to feel the bitter sting of death, of sorrow, of pain and walk alongside those who have tasted it. We need to be aware of the reality of lost generations, unsung heroes whose destinies have been stolen, and those whose dreams will never come to fruition, because they have been blotted out of the annals of history. Their loss must be our loss, and our loss must be their loss.

Silence is not an option. Apathy is not an option. No excuse is acceptable.

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.Elie Wiesel

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™–”Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Martin Luther King Day: Things That Matter

Today, January 20th, 2014, is a day set aside to commemorate humanitarian and human rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. Many of his words remain immortal, as if suspended in time. In large part, because they cross man-made boundaries, borders, and heart lines. One of my favorite Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes is:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. -Martin Luther King, Jr.

If there is to be any significant and lasting change, then our “weapons of warfare” must be tools that allow for the greatest good (for all of humanity). Tools that make room for forgiveness, reconciliation, and understanding. It’s a type of violence of the heart–a formidable purposed action plan that invites sanity, promotes healing, cherishes true human brother and sisterhood, celebrates human potential for progress and good inclusive of all, and refuses to settle for less than pure truth.

Another Martin Luther King, Jr. quote that underscores the sacredness and the gift of life:

“Our lives begin to end the day we are silent about the things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, what are the “things that matter”? They are the things that bring life, and light, and love. Apart from them, we can go through our entire life believing a lie, basing our attitudes and actions on false evidences, promoting disharmony, and limiting all that was meant for us–never living our true potential. These are the threads that bind humanity together despite our uniqueness. They help us see that we are more the same than different. We celebrate our individual uniqueness with a concurrent understanding that we all share in our humanness, in that, we are each made up of body, soul, and spirit and wired with dreams, goals, and aspirations.

None of us placed ourselves on this planet. We are all pilgrims on a journey, co-travelers. We are individually responsible to discover and then propagate that life, light, and love. It’s profound in its seeming simplification, but there’s nothing ethereal about it. It’s owning the stewardship of our own lives, families, and responsibilities; being responsible for, and propagating things like justice–true justice, mercy, and compassion; and, being aware and intentional about the purpose of our lives–being about our personal destiny–the why to our being here. These are things that matter.

A recognition that hate against our fellow humans is a useless destroyer that invokes darkness. Unforgiveness kills the potential of the one who refuses to forgive. It invites a sickness that cannibalizes the one who holds it close to their heart. Then there’s selfishness. A pathetic desire to indulge ourselves above all regardless of the outcome–to hoard and cling to every good thing and opportunity for ourselves before others. And what about pride? A lie that allows individuals, people groups, and entire cultures to believe they are better, more worthy; and, more valuable or important than another. All of these petty and frivolous thoughts can become attitudes that eventually become behaviors. That’s why it’s so important to guard our hearts and think for ourselves. These “ways” can creep into our thinking and set up shop, creating mindsets that are destructive both for us and those we live alongside in this life. Ultimately, they insidiously weave their way (because we’ve invite them) into our way of “being”.

In remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I want to be about the things that matter. The things that underscore and highlight life, light, and love. The things that will make a positive ripple effect in the world. The things that have power to make a meaningful difference, inclusive of all. Apart from truth, nothing else matters.

Let us be radical about love, about moving toward the light, and radical about seeking out truth. We are all on this journey together, how will we steward our lives and our part in the lives of those we co-journey with?

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™–”Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Child Labor Perpetuates Cycle of Poverty

Not only does child labor lead to a perpetual cycle of poverty for a family, it also depresses the economy. A study by the ILO (International Labor Organization) found that it would cost $760 billion to end child labor, but the benefits to the economy would be more than six times that–an estimated $5.1 trillion in economies where child laborers are found. –GoodWeave International (GWI)

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Trafficked and Re-Trafficked

Children trafficked into one form of labor may later be sold into another, as with girls from rural Nepal, who are recruited to work in carpet factories but are then trafficked into the sex industry over the border into India. -ILO/IPEC, Helping Hands or Shackled Lives? Understanding Child Domestic Labour and Responses to It

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NOT TODAY Movie: Child Trafficking in India

NOT TODAY opens in theatres today. It is a movie about child trafficking and exploitation.  One of its many awards includes “Best Justice Film” from the 2013 Justice Film Festival. As many are now aware, “human trafficking” is the new terminology for modern-day slavery. In any form, slavery condones the buying and selling of human beings. This is a film about India, but it’s also a film about humanity everywhere.

With the financial freedom to travel abroad, the young Caden Welles takes off for an adventure with his friends to Hyderabad, India. What he finds there is not a dream vacation, but a nightmare. Like so many of us who are exposed to the realities of human degradation through culturally embedded caste systems, sexual exploitation, forced labor, and/or child trafficking, he is forever haunted, forever changed.

NOT TODAY is a contemporary coming-of-age story, and through this journey, viewers are afforded terrifying, yet all-too-common examples of modern-day slavery, lined with lessons in courage, understanding, and faith, all wrapped in a rich cinematographic masterpiece.” Dr. Ana Steele, President Dalit Freedom Network USA

Watch the Trailer of NOT TODAY the Movie  

Executive Director, Matthew Cork says, “Dalits are not considered human. They get no education. They are used and abused and have no recourse or avenues toward justice. There is no protection from law enforcement; no access to the courts; no political voice, no hope of upward mobility.”

I know we live in a frenetic fast-paced world that thrives on sound bites and is always pushing toward the next thing, but if you would, re-read that last paragraph. Imagine it was referring to you, or the people you love. 

Cork is asked: “Can one movie change everything in India?” “No. But what if that one movie could open the eyes of millions and challenge them to join in this meaningful fight? There is a longing in the human heart for freedom. It is a universal longing.”

All of NOT TODAY’s partners are currently working to bring awareness, justice, and freedom to enslaved people around the globe.  Partners include A21 Campaign, International Justice Mission, Abolition International, and more. 

My challenge to you: Let’s work together, through the power of one, to begin to change each “no” into a “yes”. Yes, we believe in justice, equal justice for all of humanity. That includes fair laws, access to the courts, and legal protection for every person. Yes, we believe in education, the hope of upward mobility, and freedom from abuse for all. Yes, we believe girls have a right to live, receive education, and to prosper. Yes, we believe in a future hope that is good, the right to our voice, and freedom for all human beings, period.

As the movie byline reads: “None of us are free if one of us is enslaved.”

You may also be interested in:

Dalit Freedom Network: Touching the Untouchable Women of India

Untouchable — National Geographic Magazine  

Visit the website of NOT TODAY: The Movie or Follow on Twitter @NotTodayMovie.

How a Movie Ticket Can Help Save a Child From Slavery by Actor John Schneider

The movie was produced by Friends Church Yorba Linda, a congregation committed to educating the Dalits and ending human trafficking in India. Want to bring Not Today to YOUR City? Bring It!

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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One Saudi Arabian Woman Helps Other Women Take a Step Forward

 This is the face of a criminal. Her name: Manal al-Sharif.  Her crime?  Driving a car.

Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi Arabian woman, was arrested and jailed for nine days last year. The charge?  Violating what has been described as a “strict religious edict” that effectively prohibits women in Saudi Arabia from driving a vehicle.  As a longtime advocate for women’s rights, Manal al-Sharif posted a YouTube video of herself driving a car through Saudi Arabian streets in an effort to raise awareness about the issue. Hers is also the face for the Women2Drive campaign. Apparently, she raised more than awareness–including a few eyebrows, the blood pressure of some less-than-sympathetic males, and several women’s rights supporters along the way.

But the right to drive isn’t the only issue facing women in the region. It is also about the inability to attend school without the approval of a male family member, open a bank account, or obtain a passport, among other things many of us take for granted.

It’s shocking to women in the western world, where not only are we free to work, get an education, choose who we marry and have the opportunity to live out our dreams, but we are encouraged and expected to, in most cases. And on top of that, the idea that she is highly educated and working as an IT Professional, somehow makes it even more foreign to our thinking.

We tend to draw a correlation between education and freedom.  In some ways, she has broken through traditional barriers, as a single mother, a highly educated woman and now, as an outspoken advocate for women’s rights—human rights. Yet, in stark contrast, she was actually imprisoned and condemned for getting in a vehicle and transporting herself from one location to another.

When Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah announced that women would be able to vote and become active participants in the voting process, the victory seemed so sweet. But battles for genuine and lasting freedom have always been hard-fought.

Devin Cohen asked the following in The College Voice:

“So, how much has granting women the right to vote changed the political and social landscape of Saudi Arabia? Less than twenty-four hours after King Abdullah made the announcement, Amnesty International reported that a Saudi woman was sentenced to a severe flogging for simply getting behind the wheel of a car.”

And then there’s the refusal of Saudi Arabia to endorse any female Olympians. Something that other countries prize: dedicated, maximum-achieving athletes (any gender) that represent their countries with excellence. It is an opportunity that the world at large views as a badge of honor. According to an article by Human Rights Watch, Saudi’s Prince Nawwaf Faisal said, “At present, we are not embracing any female Saudi participation in the Olympics or other international championships.”

 

Yet with the continued uncertainty and ongoing struggle in Saudi Arabia to secure what most of us agree are fundamental human rights (for women), Manal al-Sharif managed to make the “2012 TIME 100: the Most Influential People in the World” list, plus Newsweek and the Daily Beast’s “150 Women Who Shake the World” list.  Almost makes you want to jump in the car and honk your horn in celebration!

EVERY STEP FORWARD is a step in the right direction.

Related Reading: Saudia Arabia: Woman Driving Brought to Trial (HuffPost),  Hillary Clinton Throws Support Behind Saudi Women2Drive Movement (Mashable), Manal al-Sharif Released (Arab News).

Twitter: @DestinysWomen. Follow the progress of Women2Drive on Facebook and @Women2Drive on Twitter. (Photo: Manal al-Sharif)

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

 

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