Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Leena Miller
PACS 202
October 1, 2006

Enrichment Report #2
I feel deeply privileged to have heard
  • Stephen Lewis
  • speak Saturday evening, September 30, 2006. Mr. Lewis spoke at Hagey Hall. The UW Alumni Homecoming and the UW Diversity Campaign jointly sponsored the event.
    Mr. Lewis began his speech by reminding the audience about the atrocious genocide in Rwanda in 1994 were 800,000 were killed. He then went on to speak about Darfur, Sudan lamenting the genocide there. Why is this happening? Why is life so expendable? He cried, “I do not understand how it is possible to find millions of people expendable.” Lewis went on to most eloquently address these questions.
    Lewis believes that to show solidarity throughout the world is to embrace our diversity. One year after the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, where so many promises were made, little has progressed in terms of debt relief, economic and trade reforms, AIDS treatment, education reforms. Why? According to Lewis, it is the refusal of our International bodies to embrace diversity. The most passionate part of Lewis’s speech delved into the topic of gender inequality. He stated, “Recognizing the struggle for gender equality is most important.” Diversity must include embracing gender equality.
    Although it is easy for us in the West to think that we have gender equality when we hear stories of women in the Middle East who are not allowed to leave their homes unaccompanied by a man, we only have relative gender equality. Lewis stated, “Not a single country has embraced gender equality.” This is evident in a fact Lewis cited: Canadian women make 73 cents for every dollar that Canadian men make in the same position. Gender inequality is even more evident in our international governing bodies. Under the UN umbrella there are important and powerful organizations to deal with children’s needs, health, food, and the environment. However, as Lewis emphasized, there has been no UN body to represent the needs of 52% of the world’s population: women. Lewis explained that a UN Women’s organization is finally in the works, but the proposed budget is one tenth that of UNICEF.
    In this same part of the speech Lewis fiercely addressed the gross sexual violence that has terrorized the lives of so many women. Sexual violence is most severe in conflicts such that of Darfur or Northern Uganda. But as I addressed in my first reflection paper on Take Back the Night, sexual violence is also very present in our own community. The KW Sexual Assault Support Centre estimates that everyday 10 women in the KW region are victims of sexual violence. Addressing sexual violence, both in areas of war and in our own communities, is crucial in the fight for gender equality.
    Lewis talked extensively about how women are especially vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. This vulnerability can be seen as a form of structural violence against women. It is structural violence because women are being sexually exploited and then contract HIV. “Addressing this deadly reality of gender inequality” is a priority of Lewis and his foundation. Lewis claimed that the reluctance of men to give up power coupled with predatory male sexual behaviour is driving the AIDS epidemic.
    As was explained in our first class, in the presence of structural peace, decision-making power in the production, allocation and utilization of economic, political, and cultural resources would be equitably distributed between women and men. The Lewis Foundation is working to make this a reality. They believe that this work is most effectively done through grassroots organizations that empower women, support small income-generation projects, provide basic necessities such as sleeping mats, soap and nutritious food, and offer strategies for coping and reducing and risk of infection.
    I applaud Lewis and the
  • the Stephen Lewis Foundation
  • Stephen Lewis Foundation for taking on issues of gender inequity with such seriousness. Recognizing the connection between structural violence against women and the high HIV/AIDS rates among women are crucial to reducing the plight of AIDS. I appreciate way in which Lewis framed gender equality in the context of diversity. It has expanded the way that I think about gender issues. I commend the Lewis Foundation’s work to better the lives of African women living with HIV/AIDS, and make the future healthier and safer for women by challenging gender inequalities and embracing diversity.

    1 comment:

    gwen said...

    leena, great reflection on the Lewis lecture!
    g