With Esperence and Sophia in Eastern Congo — the worst place in the world for women.

I’ve been thinking about Congo this week. Probably because I’m mid-way through reading “Half the Sky” by Nick Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn.

This book is a MUST-READ. It’s so well-researched, objective and helpful. It covers a lot of countries and addresses the crisis against women around the world. It’s hard to believe some of the stories they authors describe here. It’s honestly hard to believe any woman in the United States thinks there’s gender inequality here. Ha, that’s a laugh after reading this book.

There’s so much persecution in Africa and the Middle East — more than people care to know or think about here. But you have to. Don’t you know the root of so many things comes back to this horrible treatment of women as second class citizens?

The little girls in my arms in the photos above simply aren’t valued as much as boys in Africa. Additionally, rape is literally used as a weapon of war to keep people in line and teach people examples. Not only are 90% of women (often these “women” are little girls) raped in Congo, but they end up sort of accepting as just part of life because it’s so common. At least they are not killed, like many of the men, said one girl in the book.

In Congo, we brought all the girls in the orphanage a new dress — a luxury for these little ladies.

In places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, when women are raped, they often get the blame and are imprisoned or beaten severely, left in the dust as “unclean” and looked down upon in society for being promiscous. Many are never given the opportunity for higher education — even middle school or high school — and are destined to a life of servitude to ungrateful, abusive husbands and families.

What’s interesting — as the book points out — is that it’s not just men who perpetuate the cycle — it’s women too, who have become ingrained in the culture. Mother-in-laws in particular are often very abusive to their sons’ wives.

There are many case studies in this book — things people have tried and failed at — and I can’t describe them all but there are some good ideas. The biggest success seems to be uplifting the importance of education and providing that for as many girls as possible. Not only does that help them get a better sense of understanding of the world but it also delays marriage and lowers the number of children women have.

This also addresses another issue in the book — which is maternal mortality — how many women die in childbirth. It’s astonishing the numbers in places like Nigeria and India. There are so many reasons and so many preventative measures that can be taken but aren’t. Women’s protection simply isn’t an issue that merits importance to outside countries with money, like the U.S.

With some of the little girls I met when I was in the Middle East.

Another issue related to this? Fistulas. Did you know a thousands of women develop this problem simply because they give birth before their bodies are ready at a very young age. Also, poverty and lack of medical care. Fistulas are shameful, devastating injuries that cause incontinence and cause women to constantly leak all kinds of bodily fluid. In turn, they smell and their families often abandon them. They tell the incredible story of a fistula hospital in Addis Ababa that one woman has dedicated her life too.

There are tons of beautiful stories in the book of people who’ve change their worlds but…there is so much more that needs to be done. It inspires you to be another bit of help in a world full of need.

A full-length documentary just came out about this and I’m pasting the trailer — inspiring in itself — below. In it, America Ferrara says, “Sometimes the problem seems so big that changing one life isn’t enough. But it is.” That really stuck with me. One life does matter. If that’s what you do, that’s what you do. But there are many more than that being changed by this movement. I hope you will consider joining.

QUESTION: What do you think?
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