Author: Bernadette Lim

(Her)Story: A Revolution

Originally published on The Huffington Post Think back to your high school’s United States history book: Remember that tiny paragraph on the women’s suffrage movement? The one-sentence descriptions on the contributions of Rosalind Franklin to the discovery of DNA, Coretta Scott King to the civil rights movement, and Eleanor Roosevelt to the New Deal policies? The absence of LGBTQ-identified women and women of color in the paragraph about the 1960s “second-wave” women’s movement? We at Women SPEAK want to change that. Based in Los Angeles, Women SPEAK is an organization that empowers young women to cultivate positive body image, deconstruct gender media stereotypes, and lead change in their communities. Our latest project? Redefining history into HerStory. History has narrowly framed accomplishments, success, and innovation in the context of *his* story, mainly stories of men. We see this truth all around us: for example, in the absence of women on our currency and in the few women that are honored in commemorative spaces and public places. Women are absent in the public narratives of history in …

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen Calls for Solidarity of ALL Women

The Twittersphere has recently undergone a feminist backlash against former “male feminist” and Pasadena City College professor Hugo Schwyzer after his hour-long Twitter meltdown approximately one week ago. While Schwyzer’s uncensored tweets have inevitably ruined his reputation as a male advocate for women’s empowerment, his bluntness has more importantly initiated a renewed conversation centered on the feminist movement and its tendencies to alienate women of color. While Feministe blogger Jill Filipovic sympathized with Schwyzer, blogger Mikki Kendall fiercly tweeted in response: “I feel a moment coming on. Because this has been a banner damned month for white feminists. #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen”. The #SolidaryIsForWhiteWomen hashtag has since been used as a means of “tweeting catharsis” for many. Frustration over double standards held against women of color have been cited by many impassioned tweeters. Many of whom have recalled past and present instances of feminism’s inability to recognize and acknowledge its ignorance and exclusivity of people of color. According to The Washington Post’s “She the People” news platform, the battle of gender versus race has been rampant throughout the …

To Control or Not Control: China’s One-Child Policy vs. the Philippines’ Booming Population

We live in a world where two extremes exist. Women in China, specifically those who are of low-income background or live in rural demographics, are subject to China’s brutal one-child policy instituted forcefully since 1979. On the other hand, women of poverty in the Philippines lack access to contraception, contributing to the exponential population growth of a nation whose resources fail to accomodate for its booming population. In spite of the stark difference between China’s stringent family-size limitation and the Philippines’s lack thereof, women in both countries are subject to the same injustices: lack of reproductive rights, the performance of thousands of unsafe abortions, high rates of female suicide, and immense poverty. What is most important in the press for women’s reproductive rights is not government control or lack thereof, but rather the ability for each government to provide adequate and accessible resources and knowledge for women to foster their reproductive rights. One-Child Policy in China China’s one-child policy was instituted mainly in part to control its population. Currently, the population of China is 1.34 …

Inextricable and Inevitable: Gender, Climate Change, Health

Preparations for, and responses to, climate change need to be sensitive to gender dimensions of health care (including mental) and health-seeking behaviours. –2011 WHO Report on Gender, Climate Change, and Health  While much of the media coverage surrounding global climate change is centered on the geographical devastations that are likely to result from such catastrophe, the 2011 WHO Report on “Gender, Cimate Change, and Health” spotlights the consequences of global climate change on a social level. According to the report, women and men are apt to suffer varying consequences based on their social role, status, and physical/behavioral capacities. Many of the ramifications that are associated with climate change show “gender differentials” that include gender differences in physiological, behavioral, and socially constructed health risks and the vulnerability to long-term effects of such hazards. For example, Despite disasters entailing negative consequences for all victims involved, more women than men are killed in these catastrophes or women are killed at a younger age. These statistics are strongest in countries where women have low social, political, and economic status in comparison to men. …

The 1000 Days That Really Matter

In September 2010, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech called “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” to address child undernutrition at the United Nations General Assembly Week. One of the most compelling themes in her speech was the pressing need of recognizing nutrition as an invaluable facet of life that starts from the moment of pregnancy. Beginning with pregnancy and through a child’s 2nd birthday, this time period – a child’s first 1,000 days – is critical to the development of children. Credits to the 1,000 Days Campaign (thousanddays.org). “Interventions after that second birthday make a difference, but often cannot undo the damage that was done because of the undernutrition during the first 1,000 days. So we can be very targeted with our investments to save and improve the greatest number of lives.” -Hillary Clinton While some solutions can mitigate the surface issues of a problem, undernutrition is a deeply rooted complex problem that requires solutions allowing time, diligence, access, and resources for an individual to fruitfully gain good health. Without adequate nutrition during …

Women’s Global Interconnectedness: An International Boulevard

Two weeks ago, Connecther.org and Harvard’s Social Innovation Collaborative hosted its first ever Girls Impact the World Film Festival in which high school and college students from around the world were invited to use the power of social media and film to spotlight women’s issues they were passionate about. I spent about 3 hours watching the Top 15 film gallery one Saturday morning, moved and numbed by how deeply entrenched women’s inequalities are found not only on the streets India, Bangladesh, and Thailand amongst the many developing countries popularly spotlighted by the media but also the existence of these injustices within the neighborhoods of my own backyard. Women’s issues around the world – though unique to each context, geography, and population demographics – are not separate problems. The sex trafficking prevalent in Thailand isn’t foreign to the prevalence of prostitution of young girls in Oakland, California. The high rate of teen pregnancy amongst the Latina population in Los Angeles, California isn’t foreign to the million of women in the Philippines who, before December 29, 2012, …

We Are Worth It

Being an 18-year-old college freshman, I’m at that stage in my life where my dreams to change the world are at its peak. My ambitions are wild, set on fire and sparked incessantly by the inspirational stories and people I hear, meet, and encounter everyday. I have plans to change the world, to be a voice and speak up for girls worldwide, and above all, find fulfillment in a life that is constantly dedicated to serving others. Some call it foolish teenage idealism, a temporary phase that is bound to be suppressed by the realities of the “real world”. Contrary to popular belief, I plan on making this enthusiasm – this energy – my lifestyle. But it’s not always going to be easy. And it’s not always going to seem as if there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that there is an immediate solution to a complex problem deeply ingrained in cultural norms. There are times when I’m a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the global cause of girls’ empowerment and how …

Her Community, Our Community

I think one of the most important and indeed one of the most powerful components of girls’ and women’s empowerment is unity. It’s not about succeeding individually or collecting individual accomplishments, but progressing together as a worldwide community of girls and women. Many of our assertions of promoting girls’ education often claim that education for women not only affects women themselves, but more significantly communities at large. In 2007, Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the 4th annual Women’s Parliament Conference in Cape Town, Africa promoted girls’ education by saying that when we “educate a woman, you educate a nation” (1). In Girls’ Globe blogger Elisabeth Jessop’s recent post, she similarly acclaimed similar sentiments that when you “educate a woman [you] build a nation”.  Why are we asserting that the education of a woman is equivalent to the education of a nation? Here’s the answer: By providing education opportunities for women in our communities, we are in essence building our communities as a whole. We are choosing awareness, opportunity, and enlightenment over ignorance for our citizens. We are showing that we believe in the …

Education and Health: A Sisterhood

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, remarked in an address at the Millenium Development Goals Summit in 2010 that “education and health are a mutually-reinforcing sisterhood.” (1) I stop and think about this quote often and am at times a bit confused by the connection. What is it about education that is so empowering for women (and really anyone in general) so as to result in drastic improvements in health? What is it that links the two together? The strongest bridge between education and health is what is widely known as consciencization, a phrased coined by Paolo Friere, an influential Brazilian educator and philosopher. Conscientization is defined by the Freire Institution as the “process of developing a critical awareness of one’s social reality through reflection and action, [in which] action is fundamental because it is the process of changing the reality.” In simpler terms, conscientization brings about a “state of mind” in an individual, a proactive awareness of the opportunities that life has to offer and the viability and tangibility of those opportunities. Empowering …