Remember, Learn & Educate

~Heather Mistretta

April 14 marked one year since the militant group, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 Nigerian schoolgirls. Along with the new Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari, members of the "Bring Back Our Girls" campaign are still working to secure the release of the 219 girls who are still captive, but a lot of people are more concerned with who the next American Idol will be or what the Kardashians are going to do next...

Whether it be in the barren fields of Nigeria, the trendy streets of Soho or the sleepy, seemingly bucolic suburban town in New Jersey, every girl across the globe deserves the opportunity to live a happy, healthy life absent of abuse and violence. One in every 4 women will experience violence in her lifetime, and an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.

And abuse isn’t just a black eye, a dislocated shoulder or a split lip. Abuse can also mean a damaged sense of self, a loss of security or a feeling of pathos and desperation so deep your toes hurt and even if there are people helping, the feeling of loneliness can be unbearable.

These statistics aren’t meant to simply shock you but instead to make you aware of the insidious worldwide violence and the vicious cycle that it creates in hopes that you can be a part of the change. We need to educate both boys and girls to be catalysts of change and citizens empowered to help eradicate violence against women.

So when you sit down tonight to enjoy your dinner, and by all means I hope you do, or you run to the grocery store for milk or attend a teacher’s conference, I hope you also communicate and get to know the people around you, even if it's just a few words. I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone and meet someone new, or learn something new about someone you already know. You might be surprised by the courage you have inside you. It is this communication that will help us all facilitate the work we need to do, and it is communication that will help girls be empowered so that they avoid being a victim and instead become confident, caring and brave young women. It is through this communication that we can foster confidence, respect and bravery in our boys so that they grow up to be valuable and aware citizens who respect women. Because this is not just a women’s issue, and this is not just a men’s issue. This is a human issue. It’s about caring for one another and embracing and learning from our differences.

As we remember all that we can be grateful for, we have to think of our children. We need to protect their rights so that they too have the opportunity to look forward to a bright future absent of abuse, isolation and suppression of their spirit and dreams. Their voices are important, and we need to listen.

“Everything you desire, crave, need and want is within us. You are your own soulmate and the time you spend in your own solitude, the beauty you find in your laugh lines, the time you take to not smooth those curves, but to love them, is maybe not what you were looking for but something you are blessed to have found.”—Seema Kapoor

Posted on April 20, 2015 .