A Time to Speak – We can change the script for girls

Sr. Judy Morris
Sr. Judy Morris

Kasha Sequoia Slavner was 14 years old when she decided she had enough of a constant barrage of negative news. Terrorism, war, human trafficking and negative political ads filled television screens in her native Canada.

Kasha had experienced her own time of being surrounded by domestic violence. Her mother was physically abused by her father and divorced him. They were homeless for a period of time before experiencing a stable home life.

At 14 she became involved in a peace and justice committee and began raising money to travel around the world videotaping scenes of people who made a difference in the lives of others.

She traveled to Tanzania and interviewed a man who established a school for girls, a desperate need for girls in Africa and the Middle East. She created the documentary, “The Sunrise Storyteller,” a good-news film that provided inspiration for many attending the 61st annual Commission on the Status of Women.

I was privileged to represent Dominican Sisters of North America at this gathering at the United Nations.

There were many horrific stories of violence against women told in countless sessions for the 6,000 attendees. Rape, honor killings and domestic violence are only a few of the many forms of violence suffered by millions of women around the world.

These stories were balanced by stories of the heart. Agencies such as the United Society Partners in the Gospel, an Anglican agency that provides shelter and social services for victims of human trafficking in India, and another group of women and men in Thailand reaching out to women and girls who suffer from being trafficked were highlighted.

Perhaps the greatest challenge girls are facing is getting an education. Because of cultural barriers, millions of girls are not able to
attend school.

A young girl in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai, almost lost her life after being shot by a Taliban extremist when she attempted to go to school. Later she won the Nobel Peace Prize. This reality reflects the belief that an education is wasted on a girl because it is her role to marry early and have children.

Even though church organizations and individuals are making progress in establishing schools and providing funding, the statistics show making education available for girls around the world will be a long struggle, in fact it will be 2080 before girls around the world will have eight years of formal education and the year 2100 before they will be able to complete ten years of formal education, according to statistics presented at the gathering.

The economic empowerment of women, theme for this year’s commission, can only be achieved through the education of girls and women.

Organizations addressing the education of girls and women, economic empowerment and violence against women are working hard every day, but need the support of many to widen the circle of support for change.

We can water the seeds that have been planted through engagement with our political representatives, donating to organizations actively involved in the issues or inviting speakers to our parishes or schools to educate the public to life or death issues.

We can change the script.

Dominican Sister of Peace Judy Morris, who served as the justice promoter of the Dominican Sisters of Peace for the last seven years, established and coordinated the work of the sisters’ Human Trafficking Committee.

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