Saturday, January 23, 2010

46 Self-Empowered Woman In Santiago

Dear Followers,

Today I'd like to introduce you to an amazing 84 year old woman who has had a profound effect on the political landscape in Chile. In today's New York Times Alexei Barrionuevo introduced readers to Ana Gonzalez, a plump gray-haired grandmother who has batteld tirelessly on behalf of families touched by "the dissapeared."

Back in the 1970's, Chile's president, socialist Salvador Allende was overthrown in a bloody coup by General Augusto Pinochet. Under his dictatorship anyone who was (or had been) associated with the communist party was considered an enemy of the state.

In April 1976, Ana Gonzalez lost both her sons, pregnant daughter-in law, and her husband (12. Hard Times). Like thousands of other women in Chile who lost their loved ones, no bodies were ever recovered. For the next 34 years, Ana Gonzalez has worked tirelessly to find out what happened to the 3,000 people who are believed to have been killed during Pinochet's dictatorship (7. Magnificent Obsession).

As she told The New York Times "they never thought that a woman, a housewife who didn't know anything, not even where the courts were located, would take up the battle cry" (13. More Than Meets The Eye). The slogan for the quest to match DNA samples is "You live in us, we carry you in our blood."

At age 11 Gonzalez moved from the North of Chile to Santiago, where she lived with her aunt and uncle (1. No Paternal Safety Net). And by the age of 16 she attended her first Young Communists meeting (2. An Early Sense of Direction). That's where she met her husband, and they remained active in the communist party; since the disappearance of her loved ones she organized protests, led hunger strikes at the offices of embassies, the church, the Red Cross and the U.N..

According to Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director for Human Rights Watch, "she was on the front lines, showing tremendous courage." Ana Gonzalez represents "the voice of somebody with no hatred. She talks... in a calm, serene way."

Looking forward to your comments...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

45. "The Elders" and The Self-Empowered Woman

Dear Followers,

On Sunday I was reading the latest NY Times column by Nicholas Kristof, and learned about a new movement designed to urge religions around the world to stop oppressing women. Kristof points out that warlords in Congo may not use scripture to justify mass rapes, and Hindus in India who burn brides may not excuse that tradition by quoting Hindu rituals, and Afghans do not rely on the Koran to justify throwing acid into the faces of girls who try to go to school. But because these behaviors reflect a social belief that women are second-class citizens, religions do little to change such abuses.

To fight these ingrained behaviors, Nelson Mandela brought together a small group of retired leaders (called "The Elders") to focus on the role of religion in oppressing women. The group includes Bishop Desmond Tutu, Ireland's Mary Robinson, and former president Jimmy Carter.

Carter has noted that religion is one of the "basic causes of the violations of women's rights....The belief that are inferior human beings in the eyes of God gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo."

Who would have thought that the Dalai Lama would agree that religion is part of the problem, and declare himself "a feminist"? As Kristof wrote "The Elders are right that religious groups should stand up for a simple ethical principle: any person's human rights should be sacred, and not depend on something as earthly as their genitals."

Looking forward to your comments...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

44. Self-Empowered Literature Ambassador Katherine Paterson

Dear Followers,

2010 has started off on an encouraging note. Sunday night I spoke at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Palm Beach Gardens to a small group of amazing women. The next day I spoke at Baywinds Women's Association, where we had a large group - led by Tony's cousin Betty Lantiere - who wanted to learn about the 17 Characteristics of High Achievers. And then last night I received an email from London asking me to participate in the publicity drive for the DVD release of Hilary Swank's movie "Amelia," about Amelia Earhart. Can't wait to see what else will develop before month's end!

Today I'd like to introduce you to another amazing Self-Empowered Woman. Katherine Paterson, 77, (you might know her as the author of "Bridge to Terabithia") has just been named the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and I think her story is compelling.

Paterson's parents (Mary and George Womeldorf) were Christian missionaries in Jiangsu, China, where she was born. Her father was the principal of a girls' school, and he traveled throughout China as a missionary (3. Belief in the Unbelievable).

When she was eight years old she wrote her first published work, a poem for her school newspaper in Shanghai, and because her family moved thirteen times in thirteen years she was always the new girl at school who never fit in very well. To deal with her loneliness, she turned to writing and wrote several plays while in school (2. An Early Sense of Direction).

Her first novel "Who Am I?" was written in 1966, but she had a hard time getting it published. Finally, by the 1970s, her books began to earn awards (8. Turning No's into Yes's). After marrying Presbyterian minister John Paterson, she had four children and would write in five-minute spells while raising her small children (16. Intensive Motherhood).

Paterson has written 39 books, won the National Book Award, the Newberry Medal, the Scott O'Dell Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Now that she is the national ambassador for young people's literature (a joint appointment by the Library of Congress's Center for the Book and Every Child a Reader as well as the Children's Book Council) she plans to encourage children everywhere to fall in love with books.

Looking forward to your comments...