A Shameless Call to Writers…

Hello! I hope everyone is doing well. This is my shameless attempt to build some sort of writers’ support group. Are you a writer? Do you love to write? Please send me a note.

Last year, early in December, I had a conversation with a dear friend, and she kindly pointed out that I’m letting my fears dictate my actions. My fears focused on whether I could combine all my interests together. Could even call any of them my passion?

Those of you familiar with my blog know that I’m interested in film and media studies, women’s issues and that I love reading. I started this blog so I could practice my English while writing about the subjects I love the most. I often worried that my interests were too scattered. I feared that I wasn’t as persistent or as dedicated to these subjects to feel proud about them.

Did you ever have a passion that you desperately wanted to deny? Perhaps because pursuing such passion would be a difficult task or a huge risk? These were the feelings I shared with my friend during a heart to heart section over dinner. I never called myself a writer. In my heart, I felt that my writing was not good enough, my grammar was (still is) outrageous, and that I had nothing good to say anyway.

It didn’t matter that I was always writing short stories. It didn’t matter if a respected institution ever thought one of my stories was good enough for an honorary mention. I wrote and directed a couple of  student films in college. I had my share of criticism (good and bad), but I had made up my mind. I didn’t have it, whatever it meant. I didn’t understand that writing is a skill that can be learned. The it factor is the moment we become skilled.

At times I felt like my ethnicity alienated me. English is not my first language, so I thought my writing wouldn’t appeal to anyone. My obsession with grammar (read adventures of a rookie blogger) kept me in place. I also wrote a lot of fanfiction, but I never even called myself a fan fiction writer, which I am.

So, today I accept the tittle. I’m a writer. I love reading. I would like to engage with other writers, improve as a writer, and have fun while doing it. Yes, I love film/filmmaking and media studies, and I’m passionate about women’s rights and education around the word. These days, I don’t see a reason why I should define myself by only one thing. In fact, nobody can.

Thanks for reading!

Best, Steph

Resolutions and Girls in Nepal

I hope everyone has a wonderful year, full prosperity, joy, patience and love.

New Year’s Day has become a symbolic day for many, carrying the promise of new beginnings and new achievements. Personally, my resolution this year is to become more involved in my community. I also like to continue advocating for girls’ rights and education around the world.

And with that said, I would like to introduce her-turn’s Resolution 2014 campaign. An organization dedicated to raising awareness about girls’ issues around the world, such as child marriages and the lack of access to education for children. Late last year, her turn started Resolution 2014, a fundraising campaign to help Nepali girls in need. The organization’s workshops give girls the opportunity to “learn essential life skills that pertain to their health, safety, and develop leadership skills.”

An estimated 41% of girls younger than 18 are married off by their parents. In more than one third of new marriages in Nepal, the girl is younger than 15. Often forced into the marriages because of lower dowries, the illusion of protection from the new husband, or a lessened financial burden, the young brides suffer physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Once married, girls are forced into sexual activity and become pregnant before their bodies fully mature.

“Despite its widespread acceptability and prevalence, child marriage is illegal in Nepal. With parental consent, Nepali law states that a girl must be 18 years old to marry. Without parental consent, she must be 20. Though seldom enforced, these laws may better the lives of Nepali young women.” Girls’ Globe

Please take a minute to check their site and learn more about their workshops. We all have hopes and dreams. Let’s help these girls realize their dreams this year. Five to ten dollars will be enough.

Okay, I’m going to shut up now. I hope everyone has a great year!

Best,

Steph

The Truth About Human Trafficking

• Think slavery is over? Think again. Today, 27 million people are enslaved around the world. This must STOP: http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

Sex trafficking makes up 79% of human trafficking and nearly all victims are women and girls. This must STOP: http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

• Not so happy fact: it is estimated that up to 21 million women and girls are currently living as sex slaves. Happy fact: you can help STOP this horrible crime and give a voice to these women and girls: http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

• Human trafficking is the second-largest and fastest-growing criminal activity in the world. It must be STOPPED:http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

Prostitution is not a choice—it kills: 75% of prostituted women have attempted suicide:http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

• Prostitution is not a choice: the average age for girls entering is 12-14—below the age of consent:http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

• So you’re telling me that if prosecuted, human traffickers receive lighter sentences then drug or weapon traffickers? This has to STOP: http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

• Think human trafficking only occurs someplace far far away from where you live? Think again. It exists around the globe and possible, even in your home town: http://bit.ly/STOP_Trafficking

WHAT IS TRAFFICKING?

TRAFFICKING IS JUST ANOTHER NAME FOR MODERN DAY SLAVERY…

A $32 billion annual industry, trafficking is a form of slavery that involves the transport or trade of people for the purpose of work. According to the U.N., 12.3 million people around the world are ensnared in forced labor at any given time.

Trafficking impacts people of all backgrounds, and people are trafficked for a variety of purposes. Men are often trafficked into hard labor jobs, while children are trafficked into labor positions in textile, agriculture and fishing industries. Women and girls are typically trafficked into the commercial sex industry, i.e. prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation.

The United Nations defines trafficking as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”

WHAT IS SEX SLAVERY?

SEX TRAFFICKING OR SLAVERY IS THE FORCING OF HUMAN BEINGS INTO ANY FORM OF COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION.

Commercial sexual exploitation includes pornography, prostitution and the sex trafficking of women and girls, and is characterized by the exploitation of a human being in exchange for goods or money. Each year, between 600,000 and 800,000 women and children are trafficked across international borders. Thousands more are victims of sex slavery within their own countries.

Although human trafficking takes many different forms—labor, domestic service, organ trafficking—79 percent of human trafficking is for sexual exploitation. Overall, women make up 66 percent of trafficking victims and girls make up 13 percent.

Some sex trafficking is highly visible, such as street prostitution. But many victims remain unseen, operating out of unmarked brothels in unsuspecting neighborhoods in big cities and small towns. Sex traffickers may also operate out of a variety of public and private locations, such as massage parlors, spas and strip clubs.

WHO PURCHASES ENSLAVED WOMEN AND GIRLS?

Many believe that sex trafficking is something that occurs “somewhere else.” HOWEVER, MANY OF THE BIGGEST PURCHASERS OF SEX ARE IN DEVELOPED NATIONS, AND MEN FROM ALL SECTORS OF SOCIETY SUPPORT THE TRAFFICKING INDUSTRY. There is no one profile that encapsulates the “typical” client. Rather, men who purchase women are both rich and poor, Eastern and Western. Many are married and have children.

One reason for the proliferation of sex slavery is because there is little to no perceived stigma to purchasing sex for money, and prostitution is viewed as a victimless crime. Because women are culturally and socially devalued in so many societies, there is little conflict with the purchasing of women and girls for sexual services. Further, few realize the explicit connection between the commercial sex trade and the illegal slave trade. In Western society in particular, there is a commonly held perception that women choose to enter into the commercial sex trade. However, for the vast majority of these women, and certainly all of the girls, they are coerced or forced into servitude.

In addition, sex tourism—that is, the practice of traveling or vacationing for the purpose of having sex—is a billion dollar industry that further encourages the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Many sex tours explicitly feature young girls. The tours are marketed specifically to pedophiles who prey on young children, and men who believe that having sex with virgins or young girls will cure sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Often, these men spread HIV and other STDs to their young victims, creating localized disease epidemics.

Sources: Liveyourdream.org

A Woman rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes: What’s Saudi Arabia monarchic law?

Adonis Diaries

A Girl, a rape victim sentenced to be lashed: What’s Saudi law? 

“The victim’s sentence was increased because her lawyer had spoken out…”

Again, who “has shown ignorance?”

When the defense attorney for a raped Saudi Arabian woman appealed a Sharia Court decision that the 90-lash sentence against his client was unjust, what resulted was more than doubling of the punishment meted out to the woman who was raped and beaten by 7 men, as reported by the women’s rights-centered news portal The Clarion Project on Sept. 22, 2013.

Timothy Whiteman, Wilmington Conservative Examiner, published this Sept. 24, 2013:

A yet to be publiclly identified female gang rape victim was initially found guilty and sentenced to 90 lashes for violating the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia‘s (KSA) rigid Islamic law on segregation of the sexes.

The Kingdom’s General Court determined the woman sat in an automobile…

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Wadjda – Film Review

An enterprising Saudi girl signs on for her school’s Koran recitation competition as a way to raise the remaining funds she needs in order to buy the green bicycle that has captured her interest.  –IMDb

I first heard about this film through Girls’ Globe, a site dedicated to raising awareness and educating others on global issues about the rights, health, and empowerment of women and girls.

Wadjda is the first feature fully filmed in Saudi Arabia. Haifaa Al-Mansour is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to direct a feature film. This was not an easy task. Women are not supposed to work with men in public. Haifaa directed all exterior scenes from the inside of a van. She watched the actors on monitors and communicated with them via walkie-talkie. Nonetheless, she received government approval to complete the film in the country. Although cinemas are not permitted in the country, audiences can see the film on television.

Wadjda is one of my favorite films this year. The film is thought provoking. It carries a heartfelt message about what it means to grow up as a woman in a country where women have plenty of restrictions. For example, women in the kingdom are not allowed to drive. Wadjda wishes for a bike, but she’s constantly told that girls “should not drive bikes.” The notion of a giving a girl a bike is frown upon by society. “You will not be able to have children,” her mom tells her when Wadjda persists on getting a bike. It’s a beautiful metaphor about a girl’s pursue for agency in her society, to make her own destiny, and find her voice.

It features great actors. Waad Mohammed plays Wadjda, a ten years old girl living with her mother in a middle class suburb. Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah (Wadjda’s mother) deliver a wonderful performance. The moments between mother and daughter are sweet and transcend all cultural differences.

This film depicts the life of men and women under the politics and spaces given to them in their society. Wadjda’s mother is devoted to her husband, yet her movements are restricted to what’s expected of her as a married woman. She fears that she will lose her husband due to her invalidity to give him a son. Wadjda’s school plays a big role in enforcing gender restrictions, where a strict principal sets the rules and expectations how girls should behave.

Wadjda is now playing in selected theaters. I urge everyone to go and see this film. You will not be disappointed.

And no, this is not a “girl’s movie.” It’s a film about women’s issues, which happens to have a female lead. Please, do not feed on this idea that films about women (or female leads) are only for female viewers…  Plus, women watch plenty of superhero films. Go watch Wadjda. It’s a wonderful film

Also read: Dana Stevens’ Review

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