Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gender Issues and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial

BY: Caitlin Jennings

This Veteran’s Day marks the 14th anniversary of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. I always felt the statue, representing three women near a fallen soldier, worked harmoniously with the rest of the memorial. Unlike some critics, I see it as a safe haven, set aside, quietly complimenting the wall and encouraging additional contemplation. As Cindy Gurney, Executive Director of the Vietnam Women's Memorial Foundation put it, “it provides balance…it completes the memorial; it completes the wall.” In recalling the first time she saw the addition of the women’s memorial, she said, “I though it was wonderful the way those three pieces came together…the men who survived, the women who survived, and those who died.”
Diane Carlson Evans, Founder and President of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation, first had the idea for the memorial in 1983 after seeing an image of the proposed addition to the wall—a statue of three soldiers designed by Frederick Hart. In a case study entitled Why was the Vietnam Women’s Memorial added to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial? she recalled that the image raised “painful personal awareness that our country did not and might not ever know the women who served alongside those depicted.” She also noted, “Historically, women who have served humanity during America's struggles and wars are not included in the artistic portrayals. They slip into history unrecognized and forgotten; compounding the myth that either they did not serve or their service was not noteworthy.”
Cindy explained that many women felt the wall, by itself, was inclusive. The eight women who died are listed with the men. However, when the controversial statue of the three soldiers was added “then you’ve got a monument to the men who served. Then there are 10-11,000 women who say ‘but what about me, that doesn’t include me.’”
While many veterans and other related groups supported Diane’s effort to rectify the exclusionary nature of the memorial by adding a statue depicting women, others fought the idea. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think people of such great numbers would be so against honoring the women of Vietnam,” Diane told me in a recent interview. “This was definitely a gender issue.” Diane believed opponents were uneasy with the idea of a figure depicting women. She noted in the case study, “Many people were comfortable with the popular stereotype of the all-male American military. For adversaries we were providing a new emblematic definition of women they were eager to impugn.”
Diane felt much of the gender related opposition was due to false stereotypes about the role women served during the war. Therefore, the success of the memorial hinged on “our ability…to educate the nation about who these women really were, what their contributions were, and getting those stories out there so people could make decisions for themselves on the merits for the memorial and not listen to those who were trying to impede the whole idea because of their misgivings or their misogyny.”
Fewer women served in the military than men. Therefore, one of the main arguments against the memorial concerned numbers; only 11,000 women served in Vietnam and only eight gave their lives. Was their contribution enough to merit a memorial? Diane said she replied to that argument by saying, “This memorial is not about the numbers…but if you want to go into numbers…lets talk about the fact that these women helped to save the lives of 350,000 men and women.”
The stereotype that women in Vietnam only served as nurses also hurt the cause. Cindy remembered there was a misconception, even among women, that the memorial would only represent nurses. In fact it represents all American women, both civilian and military, who served in Vietnam including air traffic controllers, USO volunteers, and journalists. It also represents the over 250,000 women who aided the effort at bases around the world. These women suffered from war related injuries and post traumatic stress disorder just like their male counterparts.
While the ability to persevere was needed for both their service and to push forward with plans for a memorial to honor that service, some people negatively viewed the female veterans’ determination. George F. Will said in an August 26, 1991 Newsweek article that the Mall should not become a monument to “irritable factions.” He also sarcastically noted that women were trying to “enrich” the memorial. On November 11, 1987 in the Washington Times, J. Carter Brown, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Fine Arts, said that any statue of women would “detract from the enormous power of the memorial.”
“What Brown neglects to specify, however, is precisely how much the [women’s memorial] might dilute the power of the Wall as compared to how much the existing statue on the site—Three Fighting Men—already compromises the Wall's inclusive embrace by its omission of women,” responded K.A. Marling and J. Wetenhall in The Sexual Politics of Memory: The Vietnam Women's Memorial Project and “The Wall.”
The gender issue also affected the ability to raise money and quickly garner support from powerful people. They lacked the resources the men had when proposing the addition of the three soldiers. As Cindy noted, in addition to the fact that the majority of veterans were males, these veterans also “went into fortune 500 companies or they became successful lawyers or politicians…and they were able to put together a lot of money and they deal[t] with money at very high levels. [Women] did not rise to those levels in the corporations.”
When reflecting on the long and arduous process, Diane said it “seemed like it took forever, especially because I kept comparing what we were doing to what the male veterans had done.” While the Hart statue met similar opposition concerning its possible negative effect on the impact of the wall, it was erected about three years after the idea was proposed and did not require separate legislation. In contrast, the proposal for the women’s memorial took ten years and required two pieces of additional legislation. Diane believes that if not for the gender issues “we would have had our memorial up within two or three years. But why did we have to go to congress and go through all these hoops…that the three servicemen statue didn’t have to go through?”
“The opposition tried to beat us down and throw obstacles in our way and they did it through a variety of methods and activities, some very public some very behind the scenes, but we just really felt that we were doing the right thing.” Diane’s voice resounded with determination when she added, “The reason that we have the memorial…is because we would not give up.”

“Let's all resolve that this memorial serve as a vehicle for healing our nation's wounds. Let's never again take so long in honoring a debt,” Al Gore said during the Dedication Ceremony on November 11, 1993. Today the monument and foundation serve an ongoing purpose. Cindy hopes that “some of our experiences…can also be helpful to the new generation of women who are serving.” Diane is currently serving on the advisory board for the National Vietnam War Museum. When discussing the project she assured me, “Women will be included.”

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Green in You: Making Conscious Decisions to Help Our Environment

By: Chantelle Britton

Many of us want to be environmentally responsible, but few of us are willing to make commitments of major lifestyle changes. Luckily, there are simple and effective ways to help our planet and maintain our health and quality of life. If you are not sure where to start, consider the following suggestions.

Bear in mind that the approaches listed below do not in any way encompass all of the practices that you could take to become environmentally conscious. There are many more ways. Visit the websites and resources embedded in this article for more information on how you can play a role in protecting our environment.

1. Start by Educating Yourself
There are numerous resources via the Internet that will give you great and valuable tips on becoming and staying green. Check out, a web-based magazine dedicated to modern aesthetic environmental practices. Treehugger has “going green guides” that cover everything from personal hygiene to weddings.

Idealbite offers daily doses of sassy and modern tips on eco-friendly living. They send daily e-mails on products and services that not only impact our enviornment, but will impact our lives.

The Center for a New American Dream has valuable information and resources available to help people shop smart and responsibly for the health of all beings.

2. Choose Your Mode of Transportation
Truly consider the amount of fuel consumed through our different modes of transportation. There are a variety of options to think about when choosing your mode of transportation. Some options include walking, cycling, public transportation, car pooling, or if your job allows—work from home (telecommute).

Also, when purchasing a vehicle, consider those that consume the least amount of fuels, such as hybrids, bio-diesel and reduced emission vehicles.

3. Conserve More Water
Water that we use through our taps goes through a energy intensive process of filtering, purifying and transporting, which means that fossil fuel are being emitted each time we turn on the water faucet. Some simple water saving tips include installing water saving shower heads, fixing dripping water faucets, and not letting the water run while you brush your teeth. If you garden, collect rain water instead of using a hose to water your plants.

One other tip to consider is to avoid bottled water. Bottled water is not only a billion dollar industry; its production is affecting our environment in so many ways. Consider this: The US leads the world in consuming bottled water. In 2004, 26 billion liters were consumed and the demand for bottle water is so high that the manufacturing of bottled water requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, more than enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year (See: Center for a New American Dream).

4. Consider Your Food Habits
According to Treehugger’s website, there are four basic guidelines to follow to have greener meals. The first guideline is to eat locally. Since most foods travel long distances before you have the chance to enjoy it, locally grown food reduces transportation impacts on our environment. In addition, local growers also spend less energy on packaging processing and shipping their products.

The second guideline is to eat more organically grown foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, and meat products. Organic products are produced in ways that support healthy people and an eco-friendly environment. Check out the US Department of Agriculture’s website for more organic information.

A third guideline is to consume less meat. Meat stricken diets may not be the best approach for everyone, but lessening the amount of meat you consume can be beneficial to the environment. Many resources are used up to produce meat and meat products. The production process puts strains on our water resources, land and grain resources, not to mention the potential for pollution to soil, air and water.

5. Start Recycling
The common phrase of “reduce, reuse, recycle” comes to mind when you think of recycling, but recycling has become one of the easiest ways of protecting our environment. Most local governments—cities, counties and towns, have some form of recycling program through their trash collecting systems.

Recycling involves breaking down used items into raw materials to make new items. It reduces toxic greenhouse gas emissions and conserves energy. Try, whenever possible, to recycle items such as plastic, paper, aluminum, and glass products. Also consider buying recycled items, such as paper products and even clothes. Contact your local government’s trash collecting system for more information on recycling. Visit Earth911 to find out more.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

"The Neck of the Flower: STEM, an Importnat Aspect of Women's Choices in Careers"

By Christina Stevens-Payne and Martha Young

On July 18, 2007 we went to a briefing, “STEM Education, Girls, and the Challenges that Follow: From the Classroom to STEM Careers,” with speakers Dr. Jacquelynne S. Eccles, Ph.D. and Dr. Laurel L. Haak, Ph.D. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and for those who may not understand the severity of this topic, understand that there is a huge disparity between men and women in these fields. This briefing discussed the lack of women engagement in STEM careers. According to information reported by Girls Inc., a youth organization that motivates girls at high risk in their academics, there is a misconception that females have a lower aptitude than males in STEM. They stated, “The 2005 National Assessment of Educational Progress in math and science for grades 4, 8 and 12, found the largest gap between boys’ and girls’ scale scores to be a mere four points.” Additionally, half of the finalists in the 2007 Intel Science Talent Search were comprised of girls. While these numbers are very positive, they are not high enough. Girls Inc. also stated that, “Girls continue to lag behind boys in computer science and physics, comprising only 31% of AP Physics test takers and just 16% in AP Computer Science test takers in 2006.”
What really stood out to us was that according to The College Board 2005 Total Profile Report out of all the college-bound seniors in 2005, 15% of the young women planned to major in computer science, 15% planned to major in engineering and 40% planned to major in math. Fast forward to college graduation and according to the National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering you learn that women only account for 20% of the bachelor’s degrees in math and computer science. This is shocking to learn considering that women make up 60% of the undergraduate college population. Eccles’ presentation discussed this issue in-depth through her research from over the past 25-30 years, however, there were some key components within the study that didn’t sit well with us and we felt the need to discuss these further, point by point:

She Said….

Eccles said she focused specifically on communities where the participants were more “likely” to achieve higher education. Most of her participants were from the southeast Michigan area and did not include Detroit. (See our rebuttal #1 below)
Eccles said the study was based only on gender and not race, sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. (See our rebuttal #2 below)
Eccles’ study focused on primarily undergraduate and graduate women and their work while only skimming the surface of middle school and high school young teenage women. (See our rebuttal #3 below)
Eccles discussed how dangerous it was that the minority women are not able to get interested in STEM. (See our rebuttal #4 below)

We Said…

First off, it was hard for us to really get a full understanding of this issue without regards to urban and rural lower income young women. We felt the study was biased towards a specific group of participants. Southeastern Michigan is seen as a more affluent and middle class area. Only using those participants, pigeon-holed Eccles’ arguments. She couldn’t make a generalization because she didn’t use a wider range of young women.
You can’t look at women, without taking into consideration ethnicity. You can’t look at women, without taking into consideration poverty. Basically, when you talk about women, you need to include all of these factors.
Generally, since we are in the age bracket of undergraduate and graduate students, we believe young women tend to already have an idea of what they are interested in whether it be math or liberal arts. However, middle and high school students tend to not have an idea of their interests. Consequently, this is the age range where interests are developed and should be were we focus our efforts.
Frankly, it is not an interest issue, but a resource issue. If you have young women who are from a more affluent area they have access to resources in their schools, therefore, becoming interested in STEM. However, if a young woman comes from an area such as the urban or rural locations mentioned earlier, the resources are not always readily available, perpetuating further disengagement and an everlasting and widening gap between the social classes.

After all is said and done, we believe that the original context of the briefing was important and necessary, however, it is important that when researching such a colossal topic, a researcher really must make sure they have dotted all their i’s and crossed all their t’s. Eccles did not do that and we were disappointed at her study and findings, as well as her evidentiary support. Hopefully in the future, other researchers can be more aware of this factor when conducting their studies. We would never want to dissuade or discourage research studies in this field because as we all know, there is a women’s movement and these studies only help it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rapping to Destruction: Hip-hop's Damaging Portrayal of Women

Rapping to Destruction: Hip-hop’s Damaging Portrayal of Women
By: Chantelle Britton

Don Imus reminded the world that hip-hop rappers often insult and degrade women. His proclamation was made after he referred to some of the Rutgers University’s Women’s Basketball players as “nappy headed ho’s.” Imus’ comments have resurfaced the complex debate of hip-hop’s degradation of women, particularly black women. Political leaders, activists, celebrities and others described Imus’ statements as deplorable and unacceptable. The result: Imus was fired and branded as a bigot. Not only did Imus’ comments about the Rutgers team offend many, his words about hip-hop’s degredation of women also had a striking impact as politicians, celebrities, and activists discussed the topic.

A few years ago Essence magazine launched a campaign to “Take Back the Music,” which is designed to take a stand on hip-hop’s portrayal of black women. The campaign focuses on providing a platform for discussion on the issue; exploring the effects of hip-hop on children, particularly girls; and supporting artists who promote positivity in their music. This campaign began when a few students from Spellman College, a predominately African-American, all-female college, decided to protest a performance by rapper Nelly at their school’s charity function. Their protest was based on Nelly’s explicit lyrics and graphic sexual imagery in a song called “Tip Drill.”

Before Essence and Spellman students became involved in the debate, the late C. Delores Tucker, a US politician and Chair of the National Congress of Black Women, was an outspoken critic of rap music, primarily in the areas of exploitation of women and gangster rap. Her claim was that the message was breaking down the moral foundation of the African American community in addition to being misogynistic.

Countless others have argued for change in some sectors of hip-hop, particularly rap music. The critique exists and has existed for some time, but some believe that the destruction many sectors of hip-hop are causing is slow to change. Graphic sexuality on music videos and lyrics that encourage “pimpin and ho’in” are regular occurrences on some television programs and on radio stations across America. Songs like “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” (which won an Academy Award for best original song in 2006) glorify the “lifestyle” of being a pimp and pimpin’ ho’s.

Where does the blame lie? Various sectors of hip-hop dehumanize and demoralize women often in sexually violent and sexually explicit ways. However, the blame cannot only be directed at hip-hop artists or their record label executives. Some blame the women in music videos for furthering a stereotype of black women as being over-sexualized and promiscuous. “Video vixens,” as they are often referred to, argue that this is the best way for them to attain success in their careers as actresses or models. For others the exploitation of their sexuality is primarily about providing for their children.

The easiest solution for an individual is to not watch it, don’t buy it—ignore it, but will ignoring this problem that has a psychological hold on many of our young men and women make it go away? Also will ignoring it, make our communities a better place or rid the world of misogyny and sexism? Probably not, but in order for women to be respected, we must recognize the implications of the messages that are being produced through some sectors of hip-hop.

There may be hope for hip-hop

The culture of hip-hop has evolved tremendously since its origins in New York in the late 1960s to early 1970s. It encompasses a variety of elements including political activism, fashion, slang, music, art (primarily graffiti) and dancing (break-dancing). From Afrika Bambaataa (the Grandfather of hip-hop) to the current beats that can be heard on the airwaves across the country, the hip-hop persuasion has spread across continents. Its influence around the world is vast.

Because of its enormous influence over billions of listeners; hip-hop can be used as a tool for social and cultural change. And in some sectors, it has been. Consider the “Rock the Vote” campaigns and the use of hip-hop in recent elections. The culture of hip-hop can be diverted from misogynistic and exploitative of women. In fact, many rappers do not promote hatred or exploitation of women in their lyrics, but rather they promote their love and dedication for women as witnessed in their lyrics and in their videos. Such main stream and underground/alternative hip-hop rappers include Talib Kweli, Pharaoh Monach, Dead Prez, Common, and Lupe Fiasco.

Additionally, people are realizing the negative messages being delivered to youth and recognizing the exploitation of women through hip-hop. A poll of black Americans conducted by the Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices showed that 50% of respondents say that hip-hop is a negative force in American society. And, though music sales in all genres are down, rap sales have declined 21 percent from 2005 to 2006. Although these statistics are significant, it does give voice to some change. To remedy the solution of misogynistic outlets, we must start with a discussion. And, that discussion will lead to action.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Lobbying for ENDA

The United States Constitution promises an accessible government. However, those we elect to represent us, as U.S. citizens, often seem out of reach. It seems, at times, infeasible to contact the elected body and, as a result, many constituents complain to friends and family when something goes wrong in the political world, rather than to their Representatives, Senators, and President. Many voters, including ourselves until recently, had never taken advantage of our ability to meet with our Congressmen and Senators.
As part of the New Faces, More Voices leadership training program for DC Interns working for Women’s Organizations, though, we had the irreplaceable opportunity to “lobby” for an issue of our choice. After some consideration, we chose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a federal bill which would protect against discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity in the workforce. We then researched when the proposed bill was expected to leave committee, who was co-sponsoring it, and who generally supported the issue of equality, double checking most of our information with the Human Rights Campaign. We then made an adapted sheet of facts about ENDA to leave behind at the congressional offices we visited.
Once all of the research was finished, all that was left to do was make the appointments with the offices of our Congressmen and Senators, which was easier said than done. After several phone calls, emails, and repeated faxing of meeting requests, we were able to secure four appointments with our congressional offices.
On “Lobby Day,” we spoke with staff members, usually Legislative Directors, from the offices of Senator Hutchinson (R-TX), Senator McConnell (R-KY) and Congressman Davis (R-KY), all of whom listened attentively as we described ENDA and the equality it would ensure. At our last appointment of the day, Congressman Yarmuth (D-KY) himself sat down with us to discuss his unwavering support of ENDA and equal rights. Instead of shooing us out of his office after he assured us of his support, he stayed for nearly an hour to discuss student loans, the immigration debate, and the media.

Walking through the halls of the House and Senate buildings and advocating for ENDA was a truly awakening experience. We realized how lucky we are to live in a democratic society where we can express our opinions, not just to our friends, but to those who represent us and vote on the issues of importance. We learned that setting up an appointment and taking the time to go speak with the elected body really does make a difference. After sending those who met with us thank you emails, for example, we received two replies promising updates on the Congressman’s position on ENDA and offers to meet again to discuss any other issue of importance to the young community—proof that our advocacy did not fall on deaf ears.
After our experience, we plan to return to the Hill to lobby others to support ENDA and, after some practice, hope to expand to other issues as well. We hope, too, that all young people will take the time to visit the Capitol or write their Representatives so that, collectively and powerfully, our voices will be heard.

Martha Young and Sarah Brown

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Oxygen Mentor Walk

Many years ago my father told me that one way to find the path to my dream career was to find someone who had already done what I wanted to do. And not just find anyone, but someone who had done the job well and was willing to tell me how they had gotten there. He was referring to a mentoring relationship, one of the most important relationships you can build to ensure a successful career.

On Tuesday morning I had the opportunity to participate in Oxygen’s Mentors walk in Washington DC. Oxygen’s mentors walk: Bringing Along the Next Generation is an event that brings high-profile women leaders from a variety of professions to walk--and talk--with other women who share their passion and dream of breaking into that field. The event registration asked applicants to identify their current role models and professional aspirations and then organizers used this information to match participants with mentors who have careers that align with the participants’ self-identified goals.

At the age of twenty-five I am fortunate to have some direction in my professional life. I shared my aspirations with Oxygen organizers writing a paragraph about my dream of running for national office and continuing to fight for women’s equality globally. You can only imagine my surprise and excitement when I learned that twelve-term Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder would be my mentor. Congresswoman Schroeder was a champion of women’s issues during her 24 years in the House and considered running for President in 1986 but withdrew for lack of funds despite being ranked third in the Time Magazine poll. Congresswoman Schroeder was not only a high powered politician but also a mother of two young children when she was elected to Congress.

After Congresswoman Schroeder introduced herself the walk began. I spent the next hour and a half, walking around the National Mall, speaking to the Congresswoman about her expertise on women in the military, her experience in the House, and listening to her describe her road to public office. I asked Congresswoman Schroeder if she always knew she wanted to be a politician. She laughed and explained that when she ran for office, there were few other women politicians to look up to or even imagine the career as a possibility. It was not her vision, but her leadership and strong sense of civic participation naturally lead her to the position. I could only think how lucky I am not only to have women leaders to look up to but also have the opportunity to make a personal connection with such a successful Congresswoman.

I also had the opportunity to walk with freshman Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. Congresswoman Shea-Porter is the first woman elected to National Office from New Hampshire and is also a strong supporter of women’s rights. Ironically, Congresswoman Schroeder, was Congresswoman Shea-Porter’s representative many years earlier when both were residing in Colorado. Approximately ten Congresswomen, three Under-Secretary’s of State, and many other high powered success Washington women gave their time to participate in the Oxygen Walk.

The event was a success on many levels. Namely, for making the connection between young aspiring women and more experienced professional women. In my professional career I have had many mentors, most of them men. Women have frequently offered to guide me but parenting and the many volunteer activities most women are a part of often get in the way of building a solid relationship. Young women need mentors to help them navigate through the challenges we face in the workplace. This event was an excellent first step in that process. It is now the participants and mentors responsibility to foster those relationships and build real connections with likeminded women who are eager to promote the qualities that make women strong and successful leaders in all careers.

Finally, the young women who participated need to build synergistic relationships with each other. We are not only colleagues and friends, but advocates for each other. We need to share our positive and negative work experiences publicly, support women’s leadership in the companies and organizations we work for, and commit to mentoring the women who enter the workforce after us.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Women the Hidden Victims of Violent Conflict in Africa

Women the Hidden Victims of Violent Conflict in Africa

by Anne Marie Williams

No matter how hopeless peace may seem in Africa's many violent conflicts, it is our responsibility as members of the international community to make this impossibility a reality. To give up would be a betrayal to the entire populations of women who are caught in the middle of these wars, brutalized, raped and then forgotten during the peace process. We need to remember these hidden victims and work to ensure peace on their behalf.

As militias and government forces fight to control a territory they rape women and rule the population by fear. These rapes and beatings terrorize villages and breakdown the economic and social systems in the area. Unable to work, women and their families are deprived of income. During community raids, girls and women are enslaved as wives for militia commanders and kept captive for years.

Systematic rape is a crime against humanity according to the International Criminal Court. Despite this, rape is a standard weapon in wars on the African continent and around the world. Thousands of women have fallen victim in the militia wars or genocides in Rwanda, Northern Uganda, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote D'Ivoire and Democratic Republic of Congo. At this very moment, the conflict in Darfur, Sudan claims hundreds more victims

Even as peace agreements are made, widespread impunity protects the perpetrators of these heinous crimes from punishment. Often these atrocities are accepted as an inevitable effect of war. While women face stigma returning home, they are threatened or discouraged from reporting the crimes and no one has been brought to justice in these conflicts for using rape as a weapon of war.

While the perpetrators roam free, or receive comprehensive medical treatment in prisons, their victims return to their lives, starkly changed. Usually with children from the rapes, they are shunned from their homes. They live in poverty, and many of them suffer serious injury or disablement from the crimes. Brutality and genital mutilation with objects such as sticks, bottles or guns, coupled with a lack of medical treatment leave many women seriously hurt.

Tens of thousands of women are infected with HIV and other STI's during wartime. Militias are thought to rape women with the intent of spreading HIV. In Rwanda, it is believed that the Hutu militia's widespread campaign of rape used HIV as another attempt to exterminate Tutsis. As a result of sexual violence, sixty percent of HIV cases in Sub-Saharan Africa are female. Further stigmatized for having HIV, and with no access to medical treatment, these women add to the huge number of HIV victims and AIDS deaths in Africa.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among other NGOs, work tirelessly to bring the plight of these women to the attention of the international community. Together, we need to put pressure on the United Nations and the governments of countries at war and recovering from war to protect women and not forget them in the peacemaking process. Sexual violence needs to be taken seriously by officials and become a punishable crime in practice instead of theory. Above all, women and citizens of the world need to speak out about this violence.

We must raise our voices and demand that a women's body does not become a battlefield in times of conflict or peace.

Please get involved today:

1. Donate to We-ACTx, an organization supporting Rwandan clinics treating women who contracted HIV during the 1994 genocide. Go to for details.

2. Donate to stop the atrocities occurring today in Darfur, Sudan at .

3. Write elected officials to demand continued support for African Union troops in Darfur, and for international pressure to allow UN troops into the country. Information at .

4. Encourage elected officials to ratify CEDAW, an international treaty for the rights of women ratified by 182 countries but not the United States.

5. Stay informed of the hidden side of violent conflict and speak out to protect women around the world.

Anne Marie is a high-school student and human rights activist living in Evanston, IL. She studied the effects of war on women as a part of an independent senior project. She will be attending Tufts University next year where she will continue her commitment to human rights activism.