Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thoughts on Our Village

One of the great learnings for me since I have been working with Interim Place has been to come to a greater understanding of the rich diversity of our communities and, no less, the remarkable diversity of people around our world.  I am developing a keen understanding that the lens I see the world through is formed by the complex intersection of my culture, background, religious beliefs, race, gender, and life experiences, among other things.   That intersection is unique to me, as yours is to you.  Our great challenge is to build peace and decrease violence in a way that not only respects, but appreciates, and celebrates that diversity.

This is why we speak particularly about violence against women.  Violence shows its face in (too) many forms and against both genders around our globe, and I have learned that to understand its root causes and effectively address them, we have to understand how violence is perpetrated and experienced in a multitude of unique situations and circumstances: there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to eliminating violence.

To eliminate violence against women is not to deny the existence of violence against or among men.  I would love for humanity to be able to say that non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution is a fundamental characteristic of our entire species.  Yet to address issues of women abuse, there is undeniably a need to look at the unique ways that violence is perpetrated against women and to address those issues directly.  It is to be honest about the role that power plays in violence.  It is to understand that women experiencing violence may also face poverty, employment, housing, mental health, immigration, addiction and other issues that are related to or affected by their experiences as women.  Sometimes these additional issues affect whether women will continue to live with the violence.

This realization was how I came to be involved with Interim Place: many times while up in the middle of the night with my newborn baby girls or in the stress of the most difficult days as a mom, I wondered how I would cope if I had to deal with all of these mom stresses while also fearing for the safety of myself and my children. Would I have the means to provide an alternative for my family (particularly having been out of the work force while on almost consecutive maternity leaves)?  Who would care for my children while I had to work?  How secure would my employment be if I had to be absent to care for a child that was sick or had special needs?  Where would we live? How would I know what my legal rights would be as a mom?  Could I afford a lawyer to tell me?  What if, in addition to these pieces, I was living with a disability?  I realized that women in violent situations have painstaking decisions to make and that we can’t understand women’s experience with violence in isolation of all of these considerations.

Through the amazing women working at and with Interim Place, I continue to learn and think about these pieces daily.  My challenge to everyone reading this is to consider these pieces the next time you find yourself generalizing about people, their experiences, or – in particular – about women experiencing violence.  Our backgrounds and experiences are mind-bogglingly unique, so our analysis on how to address critical issues such as abuse has to reflect that, including what it uniquely means to experience violence as a woman.

To close off this week, I want to share a piece that always gives me perspective and reminds me that my individual experiences are not global experiences.  While we share a great common humanity that binds us, the world is infinitely rich in the diversity of the people that live in our incredible global village.  It’s a description of how the world would look if it was a village of 100 people.

If the world were a village of 100 people:

61 would be Asian ; 14 would be African; 11 would be European; 8 would come from South America, Central America (including Mexico), and the Caribbean; 5 would be from Canada and the United States; 1 would be from Oceania
50 would be women; 50 would be men
47 villagers would live in an urban area
12 villagers would have a disability
43 villagers would not have basic sanitation
33 villagers would not have access to a safe water supply
20 people would own 75% of the wealth of the entire village
50 villagers would be malnourished
16 villagers would not be able to read or write
Only 8 villagers would have an internet connection
21 people would live on US $1.25 per day or less

In all of its diversity and with all of its challenges, it really is an awesome world...with lots of work to be done.

Thanks for running with me.

Please consider supporting Interim Place with a donation through Run Strong.  100% of proceeds will go to Interim Place's programs and services for women fleeing violence and their children.  You can make a donation by clicking on the button below or email me at if you'd like to donate offline. Thanks for your support!!

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