Sign the petition to elevate August 26th, Women's Equality Day to a federal holiday! [click here]

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Interview with Pam Erickson, Founder and Executive Director, Coastal Studies For Girls

Photo courtesy of Coastal Studies For Girls

We’re unique because we’re the only semester school in the United States doing this work with girls. We immerse our students in 4 months of intense living. They emerge with a better understanding of themselves. They press “pause” at an absolutely critical time in their lives. [read]

Monday, March 23, 2015

We Have a Problem, Human Trafficking

"It’s sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves. They are trapped in lives of misery—often beaten, starved, and forced to work as prostitutes or to take grueling jobs as migrant, domestic, restaurant, or factory workers with little or no pay. We’re working hard to stop human trafficking—not only because of the personal and psychological toll it takes on society, but also because it facilitates the illegal movement of immigrants across borders and provides a ready source of income for organized crime groups and even terrorists".

No country is exempt from human trafficking. Specified by the United Nations, human trafficking is “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means of 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." Potential trafficking victims are the most vulnerable of a particular society. Women, children, the poor or people in need, folks with disabilities and immigrants without legal status, are likely victims. As vile and distasteful as it is, it is a global epidemic. Poorer nations suffer from domestic and sub-regional trafficking. However, there is a great influx of trans-regional trafficking in richer countries in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America.(1) 

According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 11.4 million women and girls are trafficked annually across the globe.(2)  Trafficking illegal immigrants are a hot commodity; they are especially defenseless in trans-regional trafficking situations because they are far away from home, without familiarity of the language and culture. The clients are available, accessible and steady. Impoverished families are often preyed upon for trafficking. Many become participants of their own children's fate. Selling one of their children is a way to feed others.

Majority of trafficked victims are subjected to sexual exploitation.(3) In some of the poorer regions, women and children as young as three, are often forced to work in brothels, having to service 20 to 30 clients a day. They are tortured and beaten and do not receive compensation. The money goes directly to the brothel owners and they are forced to pay for room and board. It is not a life one could ever possibly fathom for any human being. Yet there are other types of exploitation such as forced labor and servitude, organ removal, forced marriages and most recently detected, the use of children in armed combat in certain areas.(4)

Human trafficking is the fastest growing global criminal industry.(5) Approximately 32 billion dollars is being profited through trafficking.(6) In 2008, the United Nations estimated nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries are being trafficked into 137 countries around the world.(7) Trafficking should not be confused with people smuggling which is the transportation or illegal entry of persons across international borders. Human smuggling is often accompanied by the consent of the person being smuggled, sometimes paying large sums of money to reunite with family or for some other benefit. However, it is possible that a smuggled victim can become trafficked.(8) 

In a 2013 Chicago lecture provided by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Susan Bissell, Chief of Child Protection at UNICEF proposes a global approach for prevention. Bissell works closely with communities that are potential havens for trafficking epidemics which entails providing necessities such as food, water, and medicine. These resources leave poor people less vulnerable to trafficking predators. Susan suggests that countries should focus more on preventative measures as oppose to primarily zeroing in on protection for victims. However, some countries feel that it boils down to strengthening border control and law enforcement measures. She suggests educating communities about the subject because many nations still are not in a consensus when determining human trafficking. This is extremely problematic for trans-regional trafficking. Victims are transported beyond their borders into another territory that may have a different interpretation of trafficking, with little to no laws against it or protection for victims. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that 6 out of 10 victims have been trafficked across at least one national border.(9) Since it's a crime that extends across shorelines, growing a global alliance would make things less complicated if it is recognized similarly on an international scale. This could strengthen prevention and protection for victims.

Outlines by the U.S. Department of State's 2014 Trafficking In Persons Report The United States is on of 31 countries that fall under the tier 1 category. Meaning, that the United States will adhere to the minimum requirements to bring certain people to justice and for trafficking prevention according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).(10) Still 133 countries fall into the tier 2 category. These are countries that are making some efforts to comply with TVPA but has a significant way to go. Thirty-three countries fall under tier 3. These countries are not in compliance and are not making steps to do so. The U.S. may be taking more strides to acknowledge the seriousness of trafficking and making it a top priority issue, but the world has a long way to go. The more there are efforts being made to do away with extreme levels of poverty, the less likely people are vulnerable to these horrors.


(1) UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.11) <>
(2) "New ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labour: 20.9 Million Victims." International Labour Organization. International Labour Organization, 1 June 2012. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <>.
(3)UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.9) <>
(4)UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.13) <>
(5)"STOP THE TRAFFIK - The Scale of Human Trafficking Worldwide." STOP THE TRAFFIK. STOP THE TRAFFIK. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <>.
(6)Smith, Katherine Taken, Hannah Michelle Martin, and Murphy Smith. "Human Trafficking: A Global Multi-Billion Dollar Criminal Industry." By Katherine Taken Smith, Hannah Michelle Martin, Murphy Smith. Social Science Research Network, 4 Oct. 2013. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <>.
(7)"UN-backed Container Exhibit Spotlights Plight of Sex Trafficking Victims." UN News Center. UN, 6 Feb. 2008. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <>.
(8)"Fact Sheet: Distinctions Between Human Smuggling and Human Trafficking 2006." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, 1 Jan. 2006. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <>.
(9) UNODC, Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.14.V.10 pg.12) <>
(10) "Tier Placements." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. <>.

Original: 1/25/2013, Revised: 3/25/2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Interview with Women You Should Know ® - Cofounders, Jennifer Jones and Cynthia Hornig

Co-founders of WYSK- Jennifer Jones and Cynthia Hornig
Women’s content” has traditionally been beauty, fashion, and mommy-centric. But what about the rest of the picture? We were looking for more and couldn’t find it, certainly not all in one place. So we set out to create an editorial space... [read]

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"The Price of Honor": The World Can Help Restore Honor and Faith by Shedding Light On Violent Traditions

Around the world thousands of women and girls are subjected to avenged acts of honor violence. It is a huge price to pay when they aren't meeting the expectations of their family.  Honor is a systematic approach to  keep women and girls in check, oftentimes to control their chastity and  sexuality. Avenged acts of honor violence are anything from raping, acid burning, cutting, basically scarring someone mentally and/or physically to killing. These examples are consequences to a violation against that system.  This is not to be confused with the non-vengeful acts, though they  are now constituted as crimes of honor, yet are apart of tribal traditions, such as female genital mutilation (fgm) and forced marriages. 

Such traditions has no correlation with the teachings of Islam. These are practices that have been adopted and enforced by extremists and religious fanatics. There is a higher emphasis on social standing than the welfare and good of another human-being.  Cultural practitioners have no qualms with discarding family if they become a disappointment. Though women and girls are majority victims, they also become accomplices to such tragedies. Mothers will subject their children to agony to restore honor to the family.
Although the ratio is small, men and boys are targeted  for being homosexual, refusing an arranged marriage or marrying someone outside their culture. One must abide by honor and is beholden to their family’s beliefs and traditions. Even when confronted by western customs, they must abide by their familial ideals first.  This can be quite difficult especially for a child who attends school with other American children, which are typically free to express themselves and search for their own sense of identity. In honor societies, a woman's autonomy is forbidden. At first, girls are the property of their fathers and brothers. The father decides who she shall marry. Then she becomes the property of her husband. This is a critical expectation to honor. Girls who break from this code may be disowned and avenged by their families.
Experts suggest that the reports on honor violence are not being treated as such. For example, In the United States, they are often  mislabeled which hinders the  investigations. According to The Price of Honor Documentary, within the western world, honor violence is mistaken for domestic violence because the perpetrator is usually family. Yet there is a distinct difference between the two. Perpetrators of  honor violence feel that their behavior is justified. It is often upheld and warranted, strategically carried out by the victim's family and community. Whereas in a domestic violence situation, the assailant understands that he is committing a crime, may feel guilt, fears getting caught and would be ashamed and brought to justice by the victim's family and local community. Honor violence is a perpetuated type of violence due to the very fact that the tradition is sanctioned by those that are the closest to the victims. Family members believe that they are doing something good. They are supported by their communities. In many cases, women and girls will oblige and succumb to the pressures of cultural traditions just to keep the peace.
In honor violence and honor killings scenarios, the assailant sometimes get away. This has been the case of the Texas murders of Amina and Sarah Said, two teenage girls who were murdered by their father, Yaser Said. In 2008, Yaser shot his daughters to death in the back of his taxi cab because they wanted to love who they wanted to love and be normal American teenagers. The documentary, The Price of Honor notes that Yaser's  whereabouts may be known by those that are closest to him--his brothers and the victims' uncles. These are the same people who might have helped him with his escape.
Perpetrators of such violence are often male-fathers who will disown and harm their daughters for the belief that she has been corrupted. They feel shame if their daughters are perceived as unchaste, disobedient and independent. Fifty-eight percent of the victims that are killed are accused of being too western and or resisting or disobeying cultural or religious expectations. These sort of cases are surging at a vast rate especially throughout the western world, leaving experts, educators and activists with the urgency of educating the public about this sort of violence, and the search for resources for those who pose as victims.
The Price of Honor encourages the public to assist them with their campaign to create awareness about the issue and to even aid in restoring honor to Amina and Sarah Said by helping them catch their killer. It is a sad thing when we lose someone so vital and symbolized so much hope.  Amina and Sarah Said were smart, athletic, beautiful and determined to be free of their father and live happy lives. Observing from afar, you could not have known such evil existed at home. Their future resembled so much possibility. Maybe after all the hurt and pain, The Price Of Honor is that beacon of hope for women and girls around the world, as it aids in restoring honor and faith by shedding light on these violent traditions.

Visit Join the conversation at #catchyasernow and/or  #thepriceofhonor .
#catchyasernow: The Price Of Honor Film Campaign


Previously posted on Oct 23, 2014

Revised: 3/15/2015