Today it’s the International Safe Abortion Day, and I wish it was not necessary to have such a day in the calendar, because safe abortion should be granted to every single woman in need of one. With that said, I hope putting focus on this will be for the good.
While progression has been made in some countries over the past few years, like in New Zealand, South-Korea, Argentina, Ecuador, Thailand and Ireland, other countries have taken a step backwards.
In Texas a new law, making abortion an act of crime, has been passed. Even if President Biden has promised to protect the clinics, this is a horrible development in one of the world’s most developed countries.
Religious and archaic cultural views should not dictate women’s right to control their own bodies and reproductive health. In line with the same outdated views, comes the lack of sexual education, education on reproductive health in general, and not the least, the lack of access to contraceptives.
On top of that, we can add a general lack of respect for women, and the fact that it’s the women who are punished to breaking the law by getting an abortion, while the perpetrator gets away unpunished.
The result of all this are tens of thousands of unsafe abortions every year. Women die during or after these procedures, approximately 22 000 every year! A lot more suffer from long term complications, and many are never able to get pregnant and have a child later.
This is not acceptable, it never was, and it certainly should not be acceptable in 2021!
We cannot keep silent about this. We have to keep fighting until every woman on this planet has the right, and the access to safe abortion and safe post-abortion care.
It’s been six weeks since Taliban took Kabul, in a swipe that surprised everybody, including American intelligence. The international soldiers, diplomats and others rushed out of the country. Yes, I know, President Biden had said that American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan within September 1st. But the plan, I assume, was not to hand the country over to Taliban.
Well, that is what happened, and now I wonder what will happen next. We do have some indications already. Women have disappeared from the streets, and those who are to be seen have put back the burqa. Female police officers are killed by the Taliban. Single women are forced to give up custody of the children to their in-laws. Women-only households are at even higher risk of being forced into marriage with Taliban soldiers. In many places girls’ schools are already closed, women are denied showing up at their workplace.
Activists, journalists and former soldiers are hunted down. The Taliban goes door-to-door to find them, and those who can hide or flee.
The UN estimates that 500 000 people will flee to the neighbouring countries before the end of the year. Worst case scenario they call it. I am, frankly speaking, surprised the estimation is not much higher. We are talking about a population of 38 million people.
The UN also says that 14 million people are at risk of starving to death. Normal people don’t have money. A lot have lost their jobs. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund has frozen the aid that has been flowing into the country for years. The World Bank states this is because they are worried about Taliban’s treatment of women. But who do they think a lack in health services and food shortage will harm first and foremost?
The army, the police force and all other people trained by the NATO troops, fled at the sight of Taliban troops. Was their training that bad? Or their moral that low?
The elected president and his government fled as well while they had the chance. Did they think that NATO would be present indefinitely to protect them? I ask, because I suspect that they were more interested in enriching themselves than actually govern and rebuilding the country.
I am worried about the situation, especially the situation for all the Afghan women and children. At least during the last 20 years, the literacy rate went up. A lot of girls got an education. Now it seems for nothing.
After hunting down Taliban and Osama bin Laden (who turned out to be hiding in Pakistan), there was a lot of shifting motives to keep NATO present in Afghanistan. Building a democracy, building schools, working for women’s rights, and the previously mentioned training of police and army.
I never felt it very honest, the reasons to stay on. At the same time, it seemed better for the Afghan population to keep the Taliban at bay. At least, the day all the troops left, we got the truth; the Americans didn’t stay on in Afghanistan for 20 years to rebuild the country or fight for human rights and women’s rights. They stayed “to keep America safe”.
Now, it seems to me that the world gives a damn about what is going to happen next. Statements like “we are worried about the situation” doesn’t seem very reassuring. I fear that as soon as the cameras are off and the journalists have left the room, world leaders let Afghanistan fall to the bottom of the to-do list.
I would like to write a few words about women that inspires me. Actually, it’s quite a few of them, so I won’t write about all of them at the same time. They represent everything from politicians to actresses, from intellectuals to explorers. They are young, or not so young. They are my contemporaries, or long deceased. But they all stand out, in their own way. Some of them you might know already, others perhaps not. They represent a great variety of women, because we are all different, and we chose different paths in life.
Today, I want to present Cecilie Skog, who has climbed Mount Everest and K2, and a lot of other mountains. If that wasn’t enough, she has reach the South Pole, the North Pole and crossed Greenland several times on skis.
The more I read about Cecilie, the more I like her philosophy. It has never been important to her to be the first, or the fastest or the toughest. The important thing is to enjoy doing it! It’s about the value you put in doing it. She puts it this way: “I don’t go out there (on an expedition) to hurry home”.
Cecilie Skog inspires me, not because I dream about climbing summits more than 8000 meters high, or put my skis for a trip across Antarctica. She inspires me because she had the courage to follow her dreams.
After getting her degree as a nurse, she worked six months in a hospital, before she felt an urge “to get fresh air”. She took some weeks leave, went to the mountains, and decided it was outdoor she preferred to be. I admire her courage to change plans. To leave a safe job and to find a new path.
Now as a mother, she has kind of changed path again. The need to climb the highest mountains is gone, the urge to cross the ice is gone. It’s replaced by a drive to introduce her children to all the pleasures nature can give you. It’s the quality of time spent outdoors that count, not how many kilometres you walked or how high you climbed.
I think it is important to be reminded from time to time, that it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Especially when it comes to everyday life.
As always, there are things to celebrate, and still battles to fight when it comes to women’s rights.
Let’s start with some good news:
Argentina changed its abortion laws in 2020, ending a total prohibition on abortion. Several other countries have also changed their abortion laws in recent years, like Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
In Kenya, 40 clan elders have decided to stop child marriages and to end female genital mutilation and other forms of gender-based violence. This is important, and progress is made in other countries as well.
In many African countries, education on women’s reproductive health, family planning and access to modern contraceptives are on the rise. This in turn will reduce the number of (unsafe) abortions, and allows the women to take control over their own bodies and their own reproductive health.
Further, more than 100 nations reignite the vision of the Beijing Platform for Action, the most comprehensive roadmap for advancing gender equality.
But despite progress, there are still battles to fight.
Honour killings, in particular a threat to girls and women, are still a widespread problem especially in South-Asia and the Middle-East. As of late, an Indian 17-year old girl was beheaded by her own father after he discovered she had a relationship with a man.
In India, as in Pakistan and Afghanistan and several other countries, women are often married off to the man who raped her. This is a horrific practice, and something that needs to end immediately.
In Poland, a country at the heart of Europe, and member of the European Union (EU), abortion is now prohibited. The law passed in parliament in 2020, despite large protests.
Abortion is also prohibited in the following European countries: Malta (also member of EU), Andorra, the Vatican and San Marino. A complete overview of the situation worldwide can be found here.
Both access to healthcare and education are under pressure during the covid-19 pandemic, and we have to make an effort so we don’t take many steps backwards now that progress has been made in many countries.
But even in western societies we now see family life returning to old stereotypes, where women take on a greater toll of housework, whether they are still working during the pandemic or not, compared to their spouses. We have to make sure that the years of 2020 and 2021 will not be the new norm, but still work for equality both in the domestic and professional areas.
We need to work to put an end to the misconception that girls and women are the property of men, unable to act on their own. Girls and women are individuals, fully capable of making their own decisions. No girl should be raised solely to be married off and being treated as a slave of the household and a birthmachine. This is why it’s so important to make sure they are given access to education.
We also have to work to improve the balance of representation of power, both in parliaments, but also in business corporations. Even in developed countries, men earn more, they own more, and they more often climb “to the top”. We have to get rid of the stereotype that men are better at making money, while women are better at taking care of the family. Men can be good caretakers, and women can certainly be good leaders.
I would like to end with a quote of Barack Obama, even if it would have been more appropriate for the day to quote a woman. Still, this one sums up the way forward pretty well.
“You may live in the world as it is, but you can still work to create the world as it should be.”
So let’s do that! In the spirit of all the women that has fought battles before us, and for all those coming after us.
Jeg skal være den første til å innrømme at nyheter av alle slag har fått seile stort sett sin egen sjø for min del de siste ukene. Etter et lite blikk på nyhetene i ettermiddag slår jeg fast at verden ikke har endret seg stort siden sist jeg var inne og sjekket. Ebolaen raser videre på den afrikanske vestkysten, ISIL legger under seg stadig flere byer, konflikten på Gaza er fremdeles fastlåst og jødehatet blomstrer i Europa.
For å ta ebola først. Her er det ingen part å skylde på, vi må bare håpe at epidimien snart kommer under kontroll snarere enn at den fortsetter å spre seg. Flere humanitære organisasjoner, blant dem MSF, har team som jobber dag og natt for å redde liv og for å avgrense spredningen. Det er ikke alltid like enkelt når folk ikke forstår alvorligheten av sykdommen og viktigheten av isolasjon av pasientene. Ebola er skummelt og det arter seg skummelt, og mange finner trøst og håp i lykkebringende amuletter og andre “hellige” gjenstander. Om det bare hadde hjulpet…
Så var det ISIL. Ikke bare dreper de folk, de ødelegger også religiøse hus og minnesmerker i beste Taliban-ånd. Hvorfor skal det være så vanskelig for oss mennesker å leve side om side i fred og fordragelighet? Hvorfor skal jeg være en trussel mot andre bare fordi jeg er ateist? Eller hvorfor skal jeg oppfatte en annen som en trussel bare fordi vedkommende er buddhist, muslim, kristen eller jøde? Kan vi ikke la hverandre i fred? Så går jeg ikke i kirken på søndager, men det plager meg ikke at naboen gjør det.
Jeg har lest litt her og der om både den ene og den andre religion, og av det jeg har fått med meg er et kjernebudskap i de fleste nestekjærlighet. Det synes å være glemt eller oversett av mange utøvere av både den ene og den andre religion, slik de ikke bare slår hverandre ned, men også ihjel. Når vi vet at ekstremister forvrenger det religøse (eller politiske) budskap til det ugjenkjennelige, og at lederne er mer opptatt av egen makt og posisjon enn av sitt forhold til gud, da skjønner jeg ikke at folk fortsetter å la seg rive med. Den eneste forklaringen jeg har er, veldig enkelt sagt, at de mangler utdannelse og føler seg mistilpasset, og at de derfor er et lett bytte for disse bakmenn hvis eneste mål er å berike seg selv på en eller annen måte.
Hvis jeg forstår nyhetene rett er det slik at jødehatet i Europa ikke akkurat har blusset opp, men det har blitt mer “offentlig” i kjølvannet av oppblussingen av konflikten mellom Israel og Gaza. Jeg har ingenting til overs for Israels politikk overfor Gaza og Vestbredden, men å klandre all verdens jøder for problemene er å ta det litt langt. Det er like meningsløst som å hate alle amerikanere fordi man er uenig i USAs utenrikspolitikk. Er det virkelig så vanskelig å skille mellom en stats politikk og en etnisk gruppe? Eller er vi like uutdannede og uvitende i Europa som de ekstremistene i Midt-Østen og Asia som vi helhjertet kritiserer for å være dumme og “helt på viddene”?
Dagens nyhetsbilde forteller meg at det er på tide at vi går i oss selv og tar tak i våre egne fordommer og vrangforestillinger. Vi har ikke vondt av å gjøre en “indre opprydning” en gang i blant. Bring trollene ut i lyset og se om ikke de sprekker. Kanskje, en vakker dag langt der fremme, vil verden være et bedre sted å leve for alle. Litt mer fredelig og forsonende enn idag, med færre bomber og flere glade barn som får vokse opp sammen med foreldrene sine.
“We can rise above our limitations only once we recognize them”
– B.K.S. Iyengar
I have “stolen” this quote from a friend of mine who put it on her blog, asking the question: “Have you discovered unconscious limitations that have prevented you from reaching your goals?” And what is there to answer other than yes? I think that everybody that reflects about their lives now and then has to admit that we put limitations to ourselves, both consciously and unconsciously. Sometimes the limitation is as simple as time. Every day we have 24 hours at our disposal, and for most people those hours are consumed by sleeping, eating, work, some time spent with family and maybe friends, and if there’s anything left it might be spent watching tv, reading a book or doing your hobby (whatever that might be). There’s not much time left for expanding our horizons, searching in ourselves for a deeper meaning of it all. We have limited time resources for travelling, and of course limited economical resources to wander off and explore the world. Or? I can be very academic here and say it’s all about a matter of defining the term “explore the world”. Most people, I guess, would instantly think I’m referring to a long journey to the most remote corners of the world in search for the meaning of life. And of course it can be. But it can also be in inner travel, a search in your dreams of things you would like to accomplish. It doesn’t have to be big dreams of fame and glory, but a skill you would like to develop, a travel you would really like to make.
I have discovered that I have plenty of limitations I have put for myself. And even if I have no more time than other people, it’s not really the time factor that concerns me or put the true limitation. It’s as simple as I am a coward. A big one that is. I’m simply afraid of failing, of making a fool of myself, but most of all I’m afraid of disappointing myself. In other words it’s very simple and incredibly silly. Why is it that we are so afraid of losing control now and then? What’s the worst that can happen? I dare say the worse than can happen is that I fall and perhaps I get bruised. It’s just to rise up! Make a lesson of it; experience gained, knowledge gained, try a different approach next time. What’s so bad about that?
After letting my cowardice prevent me from expanding my horizon and exploring the world and life itself for years I’ve gradually managed to overcome it. Alas, there is still a long way to go, but at least I know what’s the true reason keeping me from reaching my dreams, and that’s a good start. Sometimes it’s a hard battle to fight, but I find better and better weaponry to fight it as I go. Life has so many opportunities and it would be a pity to waste a lot of them due to cowardice.
The other day I got stuck in rush hour in Nice, and everybody who travels regularly with their car to work and back knows how boring it is to be stuck in traffic like this. Let me say at once that for me this is not an everyday event, it happens only from time to time. Anyway, sitting there in the car, moving with the speed of a land turtle and looking to all the cars I thought that even if this is not something very pleasant, at least the rush hour is an indication that people are free to move wherever they want and at any time. They are fortunate to have a job and a car, to have access to all roads, to have access to fuel. Traffic is not jammed due to road blocks or mines along the road. We’re not queuing up waiting to show our papers and have our cars searched, with the risk of being held back for hours due to the bad mood of a soldier. Or worse, we could risk being harassed, abused, and refused to continue.
It so easy to get irritated when stuck in traffic like this. I mean, I certainly have better things to do. The same I often think when I have to wait “for ages” in the line at the cashier at the supermarket. But again, I should rather think about how fortunate I am who can go to a huge supermarket and buy whatever I want and still some more. There’s no shortage of anything, everybody can buy what they need and want (in the sense there are no rations to think about. The economical aspect of buying whatever people want is another topic).
Every so often I find myself waiting in the waiting area of my son’s paediatrician. And that’s yet another story about waiting. Everybody knows that doctors are always late on their schedule, and maybe ours are no worse than the rest, but at times we wait for almost two hours after scheduled appointment. I have to admit I get upset sometimes, as this is really not the fun place to spend the day. But we have access to a paediatrician, who has a nice and clean office (and a clean and big waiting area, even if it’s rather dull), he takes good care of my son and takes his time with the kids (which is probably the cause of the delays). If my son is ill he prescribes medication, and I can go to the pharmacy and get it straight away. There’s no shortage of anything. So what am I complaining about? In other parts of the world people walk for days to get to a hospital or a rural Clinique, and usually a poorly facilitated one that will be. If people have to seek the Clinique during an epidemic or disaster sometimes they have to wait a day or two to see the doctor! No medicines available, or when they are often at a high cost. If the patient is severely ill there might be a long way to travel to a better facilitated hospital. A travel that will often be done on foot, on a donkey- or bull chart, or if lucky, in an old car on a bumpy and dusty road. I even know of cholera patients who has been too weak to walk that they family has brought them in to the Clinique in a wheel barrel! In the western world we call for an ambulance if the patient is too weak or ill to be taken by car. The contrast is somewhat grotesque.
When being in Europe for longer periods of time I sometimes have to remind myself of all this; that I am among the most fortunate people on this planet. I can move wherever I want whenever I want, I lack nothing, in fact I have more than I need of material things. I go to sleep in a warm bed at night; I can have a warm shower any time during the day. I can go to the market without fearing bombs and snipers, I can walk everywhere outside the road without fearing mines. If I get sick I go to the doctor or the hospital and I get treated. When giving birth to my child I do so in a safe environment with skilled personnel present and I can even have anaesthetics if I want.
I realize that I have to remind myself more often that what I take for granted is for others a dream or a luxury. I have no reason to complain about anything. I should be immensely grateful for living in Europe.
It happens to all of us I guess, that we say or do things that we regret. Or maybe even worse, we don’t say or do things that we later think we should have. At times we have the opportunity to correct the situation, there is still time to apologize or to say what we wanted to say but didn’t. But then it happens that we no longer have that opportunity. I sometimes think about things I should have said or things I shouldn’t have done towards people who are no longer present among us. Actions I cannot correct no matter how much I would like to. It’s simply too late. Then you might ask me why I didn’t do anything about it while it was still time, and I will answer that there are many reasons for that. Sometimes we don’t realize until it’s too late that we should have done things differently. Or we don’t realize what kind of impact our own actions will have on us at a later stage in life; that we might actually regret an action that at the time it was carried out felt like the right thing to do. There are a few of that kind on my list.
I also wonder if the people I feel I did unjust ever regretted any of the actions they carried out towards me, but for which they never apologized or tried to correct. Because for sure I have felt that they did me unjust as well. It’s one of the reasons why I in the past, when there was still time to correct things, didn’t.
So at present I try to do better, think twice before I say or do things to prevent doing too many things I might regret in the future. Maybe it’s something that comes with life experience, the ability to slow down one’s actions a bit? At least I hope that there will be less and less things I would like to erase and rewind in the future.