This morning I attended a breakfast presentation for Women’s Empowerment Day at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. During the presentation, a panel of notable women spoke on the state of women’s issues locally, nationally and globally. While I didn’t agree with everything they said, it was clear that we all still have a lot of work to do.
Two things became forefront issues as the discussion continued: violence against women and the debate over how much control women have over their own bodies. It’s true that most people can agree that violence against women is a bad thing. We tend to form an overall consensus there. Yet, it’s still a huge problem. The latter, I realize, is a hot-button topic for politicians and us Christians alike. It’s not my desire to head down that rabbit hole right now, though. Instead, I think we can tie it back to the first, and agree that women should be protected from being forced into something they don’t want to do.
I also learned two very startling facts. The first is that Georgia has the fifth highest rate in the US of women being killed by a domestic partner. The second is that the average age for a human trafficking victim in Georgia is 12 years old. These statistics should shock you, and I hope move to you action.
Issues like these can seem overwhelming. And you may not personally know anyone affected by them, therefore, you are unsure how you can help. But I assure you, you can create change.
In fact, here are six actions you can take immediately:
- Start at Home. Your biggest sphere of influence is likely within your home. Have open and honest conversations about these important issues within your own four walls. Also take stock of jokes and off-handed remarks that may could cause a problem or portray you as different from your actual beliefs in the eyes of those around you.
- Watch What You Watch. Sure, media is easy to blame. But the argument can also be made that we’re taking the time to watch and listen to what they have to say. The media is focused on ratings. They don’t keep putting out content we don’t, as far as the masses are concerned, care about. From TV shows to movies to music to video games and much more, media’s reach is far and wide. Take a hard look at your participation and what message it sends. Be a solution, even when no one else is watching.
- Realize It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue. Of course, it’s largely taken on by women, but more men should definitely be invested. Women’s issues affect the community and society as a whole. So if it makes you feel better to focus on capitalism, do that. When women are educated, working and thriving, it stimulates the economy.
- Talk About Sex. Um, so, yeah, it can get uncomfortable. But I hope you also realize that if you aren’t talking to your kids about sex, someone else will. And it’ll likely be from a source you wouldn’t want—refer back to #2, for example. Gender stereotypes and sexuality portrayed in the media are often far from the truth, but if that’s the only way your kids are getting their info, they won’t know that. You got designated a parent or guardian, so be that first.
- Help Your Boys Become Real Men. Too many men are set on their boys not becoming “soft.” They want their boys tough. They put them in sports and roughhouse with them and laugh when their little boys push or kiss little girls. On the surface, none of these things are bad. But how are they viewed? How are they reinforced? What is the intent behind them? Real men know how to treat women, and this is a taught and learned behavior. It begins when they’re little.
- Empower Your Girls. Abusers and traffickers are experts at finding a vulnerability and exploiting it. Instill in your girls confidence and a sense of self worth. It will make them a very unlikely target.
Clearly, these issues and suggestions are just starters. They are just the beginning of a dialogue I hope you will continue.
As my friend Stephanie and I walked around the Center afterwards, we landed in the Civil Rights area. It brings me to tears just standing in that room. We started talking about what we’d heard that morning, and what we were seeing in front of us, and how it was all still so unbelievable.
I told her that human rights and trafficking were our mantel to take up. They are our Civil Rights movement. I told her that if I’d lived during the 50’s and 60’s, I hope I would’ve had the guts to be a part of demonstrations and freedom rides. And I also told her that I hoped one day the displays would show how we eradicated such injustices.
Both times I’ve been to the Center I’ve stared at the older people who walk through the displays. I wonder what they’re thinking. Do they look at those walls with pride because they did something, even in their own small way, to bring about change? Do they feel shame because they did nothing and accepted racial inequality as part of the culture? Or are they just glad someone else did the work? I don’t know.
But one thing I do know is that if those displays are ever erected that tout trafficking and human rights injustices as part of our history and not our present, I want to be able to walk my friends and family through with my head held high, knowing that I helped make them a reality.
I will be the change I want to see in this world.
Won’t you join me?
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke