People tell me that I am tough. However it’s easy for a woman to be tough in a society that doesn’t require her to cover herself head-to-toe; or submit to FGM; or be married off at fourteen. Compared to these ladies, I am a quivering mass of Jello™. Most of us are.
Pounding her Baghdad beat, wrapped in a bulletproof vest and brandishing a pistol, Sgt. Bushra Jabar definitely stands out in the new Iraq.Kenya
She's the only woman in the Iraqi Army unit patrolling the Kharkh district in the heart of the capital.
"Sometimes women on the street think I'm a man, from my uniform and gun," says Jabar, 34. "The other soldiers use a man's version of my name to call me." [SNIP]
The young girls she meets are fascinated, asking her questions and posing with her for pictures.
Jabar says she was a tomboy in her youth and liked to play soccer with the boys.
When Saddam Hussein was recruiting volunteers for a militia, she stepped forward. Then came the U.S.-led invasion. "When the Americans first came to Iraq, I asked them the same: Is there a way to be a soldier?"
Seated cross-legged on tan sisal mats in the shade, Rebecca Lolosoli, matriarch of this women-only village, took the hand of a 13-year-old girl.Hysterical is another word for it (and I don't mean 'ha ha').
The frightened girl was expected to wed a man nearly three times her age, and Lolosoli told her she didn't have to.
The man was Lolosoli's brother, but that didn't matter. Females come first in Umoja. [SNIP]
Ten years ago, a group of women established the village of Umoja, which means "unity" in Swahili, on an unwanted field of dry grasslands. The women had been raped and, as a result, abandoned by their husbands, who claimed they had shamed their community. [SNIP]
With the money they collected from their ventures, the women were able to eat well, send their children to school for the first time and reject male demands for their daughters' circumcision and marriage. They even hired men to haul firewood, traditionally women's work.
They became so respected that troubled women — some beaten, some trying to get divorced — started showing up in Umoja. Then, Lolosoli was invited by the United Nations to attend a recent world conference on gender empowerment in New York.
"That's when the very ugly jealous behaviours started," says Lolosoli, referring to threats she received from local men when they learned she was going to New York.
"They just said, frankly, that they wanted to kill me."
She laughs because she thinks the idea sounds overly dramatic.[SNIP]
Is this what the oppressors of women most fear about the influence of American/Western culture? You betcha. What the oppressors of women do not realize is that empowered women are key to the success of “First World” nations.
I hope and pray that more ladies stand up in that part of the world. Everyone wins when they do.