Last week, two simple words flooded most of our social media feeds and opened up a conversation around sexual harassment and assault.
Women, and a few men, from all over the world used these words to share sentiments of solidarity with others as they simply made the declaration that sexual harassment and/or assault has indeed happened to them as well. Some shared stories of their own experiences, how it affected them, or how they overcame.
The hashtag #metoo caught traction after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted a call-out to victims “so we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The #MeToo hashtag has been used on Twitter over 1.2 million times and the numbers are equally staggering on Facebook. Per CNN, Facebook said that in less than 24 hours, 4.7 million people around the world have engaged in the “Me too” conversation, with more than 12 million posts, comments and reactions and more than 45 percent of people in the United States are friends with someone who’s posted a message with the words ‘Me too.’
The sheer magnitude of the response has made us all pay attention. It has given us agency to see this problem for what it is and face it head on. However, sexual harassment and assault isn’t reserved for developed nations. The Spotlight Initiative reports that 35 percent of women and girls all over the world have experienced sexual abuse. That number doesn’t include harassment and emotional trauma.
Food for the Hungry (FH) knows this problem all too well.
The prevalence of sexual assault against girls is all too common in many of the communities where we work. Girls are afraid to venture out of the house for fear of attack and therefore quit going to school. Those who do attend school are afraid to use the bathroom, as many school latrines are co-ed and leave them vulnerable to assault. Many families force their daughters into childhood marriages for fear that they might fall victim to an assault, tarnishing her reputation as pure. The consequences and traumas of this horrific act are far-reaching.
Tweet This: FH works with community members to ensure the safety, protection and advancement of women and girls. #metoo More: https://goo.gl/TG1akk
However, hope remains. Parallel to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #5 of gender equality, FH is working with local leaders and community members to ensure the safety, protection and advancement of women and girls. FH has been working with our communities in the field to identify sustainable solutions. One of the primary ways that our staff builds in protections for girls and gets them back to school is through gender-specific latrines. When girls feel safe to use the restroom without boys around, they’re able to get back to school.
Tweet This: When girls feel safe to use the restroom without boys around, they’re able to get back to school. #metoo Read now at https://goo.gl/TG1akk
FH also specifically works with the women in the community to help identify issues that might not come to light in an all men’s meeting. Identifying informal women leaders keys in the staff on the inner workings of a community and allows them to voice issues like sexual assault and begin conversations around solutions.
FH also works with families to help them see the value in their daughters beyond their sexuality, encouraging them to invest in their education and prolong their wedding day. When young girls get the chance to go to school, they can grow into God’s plan for their lives and truly thrive.
This campaign has just reminded me that there are some things that are universal. While my privilege allows me access to clean water whenever I want it, I’m still vulnerable to sexual assault, just like my sisters on the other side of the globe. It reminds me that we belong to each other and she deserves the same protections that I’m afforded when I exit my home. She also deserves the right to attend school or work without the fear of attack or harassment. While there is still a lot of work to do on this issue, both in developed and developing nations, evidenced by the multitude of people who spoke out with #metoo, I’m thankful to be a part of an organization that steps up and speaks out against this as an issue of human suffering.
Tweet This: The #metoo campaign reminds us that some things are universal. Learn more at https://goo.gl/TG1akk
Beyond the Hashtag
Sexual assault is just one of the many gender equality issues that keep women locked in extreme poverty. But you can help women shed the chains of poverty. Learn how in Food for the Hungry’s free ebook, 7 Surprising Facts About Women and Poverty.
In this eye-opening ebook, you’ll discover:
What it’s like for a mother to attempt to provide for her family on $1.25 a day.
Startling facts about what is actually keeping women stuck in poverty in many nations.
Simple ways you can help women break the bonds of extreme poverty.
And more — you’ll even meet an impoverished mom whose family and future were transformed when some friends gave her the gift of a cow.