Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's not always about me: Women for Women International

I typed this on Sunday evening after watching a repeat of 60 Minutes on CBS. One of the segments took Anderson Cooper to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. The situation that he presents is one that won't seem at all democratic, once you're fully aware of his report.

It's an amazing coincidence that I saw this show because I am reading a fascinating book of non-fiction titled Between Two Worlds, Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam. The author is a woman named Zainab Salbi. Her story crosses paths with the CBS segment on Congo.

In certain parts of the world there is such awful unrest and frightening conditions that we try not to even think about. We know there is poverty, disease, and starvation. The CBS segment focused on a different type of problem between some of the citizens of Congo. The problem: wide-spread rape and the creation of rape camps.

Yes, there are camps specifically created by soldiers to torture and rape women repeatedly. For months. Sometimes with objects.

Unfortunately, this isn't only a problem in Congo.

Back to Zainab Salbi... She is a woman most of us don't know and wouldn't have any reason to know. She grew up in Iraq and her father was a pilot for Saddam himself, but only for a few years. She was known for that reason as the "pilot's daughter" which was both a blessing and a curse.

She explains to people like me, sitting comfortably in the United States, the history of Iraq, its religious divisions and the rise to power of a madman. I have come away understanding so much more about Iraq and some of the people that live there. Read her book for that knowledge alone.

The paths of these two stories cross because Zainab Salbi is the woman behind Women for Women International. To learn more please click on . This organization is one that does so much for the women who are raped, often abandoned by their families, and injured both physically and mentally in certain parts of the world.

This is a HUGE problem that most of the world chooses to not focus on. The systematic raping of thousands of women, not even women, sometimes young girls who wouldn't even be in kindergarten if they lived in the US is appalling. Disgusting.

Zainab's organization started its work in Bosnia and Croatia when she started reading about rape camps there in the 1990s. She read about twenty thousand women who had been raped during this conflict. Many of those women were placed in camps where they silently endured being raped on a daily basis for months on end.

No one did anything about it. Not the US, not the United Nations.

Rape is a conscious act of war because it doesn't just destroy a woman, it can destroy families and eventually a society. Often women are raped and their families are either unwilling or unable to care for them, due to societal or religious issues.

Zainab started out as one woman, with her husband's support, and later the support of other people. Her goal was to do something for these women. These women had no homes, no jobs, often no education, no food, no family, and were often pregnant or had delivered babies from the rapes.

Her idea was to provide sponsorship for these women so they could have money and perhaps a new future.

Zainab didn't just read about this problem; she traveled to these areas and met these women. She decided that she could not stay silent about their plight.

You see, Zainab had been silent in Iraq while Saddam controlled almost all aspects of her life. She was silent when she came to the US because of her continued fear, even though she was now thousands of miles away from him.

Zainab has found her voice and has created this wonderful program to help benefit these victims of rape in several countries. Her organization provides micro-loans for women to start their own businesses. They offer training in skills that can create those businesses. They provide education; they provide a chance for a future for the women that the rest of the world forgot.

You can learn more about the story on 60 minutes, how to make a donation or start a sponsorship at . Thank goodness for women like Zainab, women who found their own power, their own voice and who are willing to make lives better for others.


Joan said...

This is terrifying. Thank you for making this known to a larger audience.

SwampAngel65 said...

Wow. I will make it a point to check into all of that, go to the website AND get that book. When we think we have it bad, we only have to hear about something like that to make us realize we have it pretty damn good here. Such a sad and disgusting thing. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

Hope you have a good week!

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