Our only solution is education

Today I read the story of  a young Vietnamese girl who had to leave school at the age of 9 go to Ho Chi Minh City from a rural farming area where she left behind her parents and two younger siblings. (see: http://newstrust.net/stories/1283943/toolbar?ref=tp)

She started working in a massage parlor to make enough money to send home to her family. Did she like her work? No. Why did she do it? She said her older sister had been wed to an old man who sent money to the family for a while. But the money stopped and the sister was no longer heard from. She had liked school herself but had to drop out next to support her family. She kept working now because she knew the money she sent back to her family enabled her two younger sisters to go to school – and maybe finally break out of the cycle of poverty that grips them.

A woman in Yemen recently commented that the biggest problem with that country’s tradition of child brides is that once the kids are taken out of school, married off and expected to bear children, they forcibly forego any chance of attaining the education that may one day usher them out of poverty.  Education may also allow them to raise children who are not ignorant of the rest of the world and won’t condone generations old traditions that only serve to keep their society and their country in the dark ages.

Here in the states teen pregnancies pose one of their biggest societal dilemmas in that they amputate the mother’s ability to gain an education to be able to work and raise a family not forever entwined in a debilitating cycle. Statistics show that poorer teenagers are more likely to get pregnant. Studies also show that unwed mothers in low-income sectors are more likely to be in abusive relationships. Children who grow up in abuse, whether witnessing it or bearing it, grow up to be abusers. Hmmm, I see a vicious cycle.

Women aged 19 to 29 and women in families with incomes below $10,000 were more likely than other women to be victims of violence by an intimate. Among victims of violence committed by an intimate, the victimization rate of women separated from their husbands was approximately three times higher than that of divorced women and approximately 25 times higher than that of married women.

US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

There is a new drive to educate men, too, about violence against women. There are ‘dot-orgs’ popping up with names like mavaw.org (men against violence against women), menstoppingviolence.org, menagainstrape.org, etc. These are all tools for us, as a society, to begin educating men and young male adults about their role and responsibility in the violence that is globally perpetuated against women. In California, at UC Santa Barbara, Men Against Rape held an event designed to create awareness in college-aged boys about their role, control and accountability for sexual assault against women. Apparently one out of 3 college age women is sexually assaulted during their college years. Wow!

One of the True/False questions young men had to answer was whether their “penis is an instrument of power?” Therein lies the problem. Around this globe men use sexual assault as a mechanism to hold or wield power over women. Whether its civilized men in the developed world, intellectually curious men in the halls of universities, age-old men in the third world who know no other way, or men conducting wars for some un-proven cause that may or may not be worth the sulfur the expend to execute it; men use assault against women as a tool of power.

So the campaign to educate must be two-pronged. On the one hand we have to work toward the global education of women and girls so they can be economically self-sustaining as well as socially aware of better options. On the other hand we must latch onto this infant campaign to educate young and adult men to understand that violence against women is not a “women’s issue”. It is perpetrated by men and is thus a “men’s issue”. Men can control violence against women in large part. They must be educated to exert that control.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice estimates that nearly three of every four victims of family violence are women. An estimated 1.5 million women are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of all rapes of females happen before the age of 18, and 22 percent of those happen before the age of 12.

Women can’t fight the battle against violence alone. Until we can get the men on board, we will forever be saving little girls from brothels and placing women into rescue shelters.

click onto some of these sites and check out the new scene… and pass the word to all your friends, even the men.

mavaw.org, menstoppingviolence.org, mencanstoprape.org, menagainstsexualviolence.org)

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