BRAC

One of the first comments I received after embarking on my “Coming Out” as a …hmm… not-a-complementarian, was challenging me on my statement that women are still in bondage to men. Are women really in BONDAGE to men? If we take a step outside the western world, absolutely. Of course, we can argue conservative Christian women are taught a form of bondage through patriarchy or husband authority, but I don’t want to split hairs in this post.

I want to talk about without-a-doubt women’s rights issues. These issues become evident in poverty. I have been mulling my passion of women’s rights. What good is a passion, if it doesn’t make a difference? I know how to teach and influence those in my sphere, but since my sphere is middle class American, it doesn’t meet my standard for making a difference, since we don’t really have a huge way to go. So, I started looking for gender equality non-profits around the world. I found the girl effect.

The Girl Effect is a movement to empower girls and women to change their own life and spark reform. It is a network of organizations who seek to alleviate social ills by education and micro finance. These groups emphasize girls staying in school, learning about family planning, eliminating child marriage and funding women in business. The Girl Effect, though a non-profit itself, is more of a gateway advertisement for the feet-on-the-ground organizations such as BRAC.

BRAC stands for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, but since its birth in Bangladesh in the 70’s, it has grown to 10 countries in Asia, Africa and North America. For the last few months, I’ve been following BRAC’s blog. Wow. I’ve learned so much. Just by reading a few articles every day. An eye opener for me was the effort to change social stigmas. Society influences girls to marry young, to have lots of babies and to stay quiet about abuse. So, not only do girls have to overcome the disadvantages of early marriage, lots of dependent children, no education, violence and poverty; they are pressured to stay the course…to perpetuate the cycle that creates poverty and suppression. A large part of BRAC’s mission is to spark awareness to these damaging societal expectations.

Alison Horton an intern with BRAC, shares Lalbanu’s story:

We learned that like many women of her generation, she was married off at a very young age (13, she believes) to a much older man. As is still the practice for most Bangladeshi marriages of all socio-economic strata, she moved in with her new husband and in-laws. Though unsure of the reasons, she recalls being harassed and beaten by her new “family.” At some point she realized that she was the man’s second wife. When they realized that Lalbanu was unable to bear children, the abuse worsened. She remembers the entire village calling her names and continually disrespecting her. When things were at their worst, she found the courage to do the unthinkable and leave her in-laws home. Her husband chose to stand by her and come along. Though culturally discouraged, they moved elsewhere on their village and tried to make it on their own. This is when she found BRAC.

Go read the rest of the article to see how Lalbanu changed her life with the help of BRAC.

Yes, women are still in bondage. If not by the law, then by the influence of the way-we’ve-always-done-it-around-here mentality.

Learning about global initiatives to empower, encourage and equalize women is the first step. To do my own small part, I’ve decided to donate what I make from my tiny, bitty shop on Etsy. My husband’s employer matches our gifts as well. I don’t share this information to toot my own horn, but to inform you of the greater global needs and encourage you to jump in too.

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7 thoughts on “BRAC

  1. Good post. The phrase “breaking the cycle of ____” often gets overused, but it’s really relevant in this sort of situation. Older women, the matriarchs of the family, are often the main enforcers of ‘traditional’ gender practices – everything from child marriage to female circumcision/genital mutilation. Their identity is so woven into those roles that it’s hard to convince them that a tradition needs to be changed. And there’s some psychological justification going on – “I turned out fine so it can’t be THAT bad”. No one wants to admit that part of their belief system may be actively hurting people.

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    1. I was reading somewhere that there is a name for those who break their social cycle. Social detractors? Social deviants? I know that’s not right. Like Rosa Parks, they have a natural meter for right and wrong. They possess not only this a unique insight, but they have the courage to rebel, and in doing so spark others to do the same. The article I was reading was about a 12 year old girl in some Muslim country that walked to an embassy? courthouse? (can’t remember) and asked for help because her father forced her to marry an older man and he said she couldn’t go to school. She was in the press a while back. Because of this awareness emphasis, girls with chutzpah are starting to “break that cycle.”

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      1. I can’t think of a particular term, but I’m familiar with that sociological concept of people who tend to step outside their cultural lens and stand up for what they view as a moral wrong (though let’s not give too much credit to Rosa Parks, she really just didn’t want to stand up).

        That girl was in Yemen – she was mentioned in that article you posted last week about child brides. Married at 10(?) years old, but her husband didn’t follow the agreement to wait a few years before ‘consummating the relationship’. So she ran to the courthouse and got out of the situation once it became world news.

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  2. I support a non-prof. organization Titled W.A.R. Int’l (Women At Risk) which in the last 3 years or so has grown to well over 20,000 constituents. (www.warinternational.org) An organization that helps lift women in bondage to dignity in Christ. Thom’s story is: As the oldest child in her family, Thom was responsible for providing for all of them – her mother, brother, sister, grandparents, and her own child. At age 17 she wanted to go to school, but her mother had debt, so she had to work to pay it off. Thom rejected her mother’s request work in the bar district three times. Finally they dropped her off, forcing her to become a different person as a “sexy girl” in the bars. She felt like an object for sale; she hated her life. Staff from the safe house (W.A.R) visited her, and eventually she trusted that they were good people – not like the ones she was working for. The safe house had everything she was looking for: a job, English classes, peace, and the opportunity to work with dignity. today she is the main jewelry designer making beautiful pieces, which are sold to care for herself and her family.” WAR has safe houses in Nepal, the Middle East, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and India (now beginning in Michigan, USA) where women are rescued from notorious red light districts, abuse and slavery; brought to safe houses/orphanages and taught to put their lives back together in safe places through learning a trade and the message of redemption through Christ.

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  3. Thanks for the great post and for following BRAC’s work on our blog! You might be interested in this latest initiative from Aarong, one of our social enterprises in Bangladesh that employs more than 65,000 women who produce handicrafts that retail in Aarong’s stores. We’re looking into launching an e-commerce website for the store, and could use some feedback. You can find more information here: http://hosted-p0.vresp.com/522963/479b1a09da/ARCHIVE.

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