Sunday, July 27, 2014

IWHHR: Week 1 (Women's Rights = Human Rights)

During the summer of 2014, I am taking an online course in Global Health from Stanford University taught by Anne Firth Murray entitled, "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (IWHHR). I will be posting my reflective writing assignments from each week's course of study. All writings can be found under the tag IWHHR.

If you are interested in taking this or another course, you can find a listing of the online courses offered by Stanford here. From economics to cryptography, courses are added each semester.


Please go to Annex I: The Beijing Declaration (link). Read the Beijing Declaration (pages 2-5), a document that emerged from the 4th United Nations Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.
Almost every country in the world has signed on to this Declaration. As you read through it, take note of two or three of the commitments in this document that interest you.
What surprises you? Do you think the commitments are realistic? Do you have any other reactions? Please comment upon them in three to five thoughtful paragraphs.
As I have begun this course, I have become acutely aware that I am not an expert in this field of social justice and human rights, and I am also very much a product of my upbringing in the sense that my views on women's role, the rights of women, and the realities of life as a woman are largely colored by my religious, socioeconomic, geographic, and familial backgrounds. That being said, my parents raised me with and continue to in engage me in a very open-minded environment, where learning was and is encouraged and looking at a particular situation or issue from a different point-of-view was and is commonplace.

In the U.S. media, stories of wars, rumors of wars, beatings, rapes, and an all-around lack of peace abound. The 18th commitment of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which is the result of the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, states:
We are convinced that... 18. Local, national, regional and global peace is attainable and is inextricably linked with the advancement of women, who are a fundamental force for leadership, conflict resolution and the promotion of lasting peace at all levels; 
Women are a powerful, fundamental force for leadership. Countries won't have women in leadership until women want to be in leadership. According to the "World's Women and Girls 2011 Datasheet" issued by the Population Reference Bureau, Rwanda, a small country emerging from civil war only in the mid-1990s, has a parliament occupied by 56% women, making it the only country in the world to have a female majority in the national parliament. Contrast that with my country, The United States, thought of to be a leader in the world has a mere 17% women in national government. Large bodies are slow to change and often get stuck in the rut of the past. Women will occupy more seats in government when women begin running for office, when women want more of a say.

Inserting women leaders into governments, at an equal rate as men, and allowing them to make and influence decisions alongside men during times of warfare, as well as times of peace, would drastically change the tenor of international conversations and thus, conflicts and war.

Another thought is that women will have a more equal role in leadership and conflict resolution not only when they want it for themselves, but when men also want it for them. The Beijing Declaration also states:
We are determined to... 25. Encourage men to participate fully in all actions towards equality; 
When men are as interested in women's human rights as women are, more forward movement will occur. The mere fact that our class, with a topic and title such as "International Women's Health and Human Rights" (emphasis) appears to be made up primarily of women (based on a glancing at the names listed in the Piazza discussion forum) is disheartening when looking at it through the context of the United Nations commitments to action listed in the Beijing Declaration. Where are the men? Why are they noticeably absent from anything that specifically has women in the title? How will the goals and commitments be accomplished if men do not even want to learn, participate in, and support the actions and efforts being made in the direction toward the 9th commitment stated in the Declaration:
We reaffirm our commitment to... 9. Ensure the full implementation of the human rights of women and of the girl child as an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
All of these commitments listed in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action are ideals. At first reading, the commitments seem grand and unattainable for billions of people trying to work together across the world. Certainly they have not yet been met worldwide, nearly 20 years after this document was written. However, these commitments are goals. And goals are nothing if not grand and do not give cause to reach further than thought possible. As governments, countries, workplaces, service groups, churches, schools, and families begin to take heed to these goals, these grand ideas will start small and be spread to all with whom each equality-minded person interacts.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

On to Riquewihr, France.

"A good snapshot stops a moment from running away."
~Eudora Welty

From Colmar, we drove north to Riquewihr, where we found yet another charming old town. Vineyards seemed to surround the city, blanketing the countryside. They were rather mesmerizing to me.

Riquewihr was largely untouched during World War II and is surrounded by medieval fortifications. Although the city looks, more or less, the same as it did in the 16th century I was told, we did see several things that probably would not have made an appearance back then.

Confetti lined the cobblestone sidewalks hinting at the joyful celebration which must have welcomed in the new year just two days before.

Just inside on the main street, we found a sad sight. We learned that the lights on a Christmas tree (or maybe candles in the house burning until late in the night, I can't remember) ignited one of the historic homes on fire and the older woman who lived there was not able to escape. She had died before the fire, which consumed 90% of her home and spilled into the adjacent home, was finally extinguished. A tragic loss of life, as well as a piece of history.

The demolished house stood between the bright blue one and the yellowish one to its left. You can see how the roof of the blue one was damaged.

Despite the tragedy and the solemn mood we felt in town, we were still able to see the quaintness of the community, which entices visitors all throughout the year.

And of course we couldn't leave without macaroons. Yum. Orange flavored, regular almond, and chocolate. And yes, the picture below tells the tale of our impatience... we each had one before we even got back into the car! They were SO good.

On our way home to Germany from Riquewihr while still in France, we stopped at a chocolate shop, Chocolaterie du Vignoble - Daniel STOFFEL.

Photo found here.

Photo found here.
Seriously, so much chocolate. Not that I'm complaining...

The overcast day was really beautiful to me because the clouds still had shape and the views were just spectacular.

Fred and Linda surprised us with a different (than their normal) route home, which included a ferry ride across the Rhine. Yes, we were driving. That meant that we drove our car onto the ferry, which only held three cars at a time and floated across the Rhine as the final snippets of daylight could be seen.

What a beautiful day and a beautiful night sky to end our day.

Tomorrow, is Rothenburg. Beautiful, quaint Rothenburg.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Day Trip to Colmar.

"Within our dreams and aspirations we find our opportunities."
~Sue Atchley Ebaugh

France! I'd never been to France before this trip. The drive from Stuttgart across the Rhein (Rhine) River to Colmar, on Friday, January 3rd, was really beautiful. I didn't take any pictures in the car that day, but the rolling hills and fields were beautiful. Colmar is the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. They even have their own replica of the Lady on the middle of a roundabout leading into the city.

Photo found here
It was a little odd to see a replica of Lady Liberty so far away from home, although it's obviously fitting. Certainly more fitting than seeing her in Las Vegas along the strip. Also, she stands as a symbol of hope, liberty, peace, and hope for continued good relationship between our two countries.

As we entered the town square, we came upon a statue of General Jean Rapp, a French Army general during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. General Rapp, apparently was born the son of the janitor of the town-hall of Colmar. Talk about working your way up the ranks. He started his education with the idea that he would be a clergyman, but soon found he was better suited to being in the military. Interesting, right?

Although I missed the real hustle and bustle of the Weihnachtsmarkts, the traditional French and German Christmas markets, most of Colmar was still decorated for the season. Apparently in both France and Germany, the decorations stay up through January 6th, Three Kings Day. So I definitely got a taste of the markets.

Christmas decorations were still up, but the crowns were out to celebrate Three Kings Day.

I loved the trees which were decorated simply in red balls. Next year, I will remember this and decorate my tree outside on my front lawn.

I love walking into churches in Europe, so we went inside this one as well. St. Martin's Catholic Church of Colmar. There were a few things that caught my eye: the nativity scene, a wooden sculpture of the Mother Mary holding the crucified Jesus, and the array of candles lit and waiting to be lit. Linda and I decided, after reading the prayer and plea to Heavenly Father, that we had to light a candle that day. And we did. There was something special about that candle in that church that day. That magical feeling I had while flying through the rainbow-filled clouds into Paris was alive in that church.

My candle is second from the left.

Linda knew exactly where to find the home, which was the birthplace of Bartholdi. The museum was not open that day, but there was a nice sculpture in the courtyard outside the home.

The sculpture, Statue des grands soutiens du monde, represents the three great supports of the world: labor (hold a hammer and an arm full of books), justice (holding a scale), and patriotism (holding a flag). I like how all three characters are on an equal plain. Not one is greater than the other. All three support the world.

Hansi's drawings are all over this part of France. I love the little faces and the colors in the drawings.

To end our tour of Colmar, we walked through the covered market, where we found cheeses, breads, nuts, fruits, and of course, pretzels.

Linda and Fred.

Despite the cold of winter, all the streets were teeming with colorfully painted buildings, one of my favorite things about Colmar. And though there was no real snow on the ground, you can see they made up for that by decorating with cotton quilt batting, you know... to remind you it was winter.

For the record, that was 60 pictures. You know, if you were counting.

Next up: same day, but on to Riquewihr, France.