By Moira O'Neill, Emerge Maine Class of 2013
My first blog and I’m a little uneasy.
I’m thinking about the women’s vote and how women can make all the difference in this year’s election.
And I’m looking at images of Malala Yousafzai – the little Pakastani girl who was treated to a bullet in her head by the Pakastani Taliban on October 9th. They said her advocacy for women’s education was obscene. She has been blogging about educating women since she was 11. At 52 I’m just getting started with blogging and I’ve been assuming that all women get educated now, it’s the 21st Century after all.
Last week in my Nursing Leadership class at Husson University we talked about the concept of power. One hundred years ago, nurses had little power because they were women and women had nothing – no right to vote, few were educated. Those who attempted to learn and seek the right to vote were scolded for being “unladylike”. One hundred years later and we’ve progressed from unladylike to obscene – all for want of an education.
I’m a little uneasy.
Thank goodness we are the United States where education is not only available but compulsory for all children, regardless of gender. Yet even with advanced degrees women are still under attack. Did you ever imagine that in 2012 we would be back in the arguments about a woman’s right to make decisions affecting her own body? That someone running for U.S. Senate would actually believe women have an internal protective mechanism against pregnancy when being raped, negating the need for legal abortions? I used to cop out on the abortion issue. I used to say, “women should just use contraception so they don’t need an abortion.” And then I learned about how hard it is to access contraception. Either your local family planning clinic is under attack or your insurance won’t pay for contraception, or it won’t pay for more than a 30-day supply of oral contraceptives (the most reliable contraception there is); and if you don’t have a car you can’t get back to the doctor for another prescription for another 30 days.
The Obama administration fought for coverage of contraception. The opposition made it seem like it would be obscene to do so. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to overturn the Affordable Care Act that covers preventative screenings like mammograms for women. They want to cut funding to Planned Parenthood where more than 5 million women and men receive affordable primary and preventative care each year. Is this what Malala has to look forward to? Will she someday be educated, only to then be faced with unwanted pregnancies, rape, and breast cancer?
Women in the U.S. hold everyone’s future in their hands. We are educated, we have jobs, (even if the pay is only 77% of what mean earn), most importantly, we have the power of the vote. On November 6th we must make a difference. If a 14-year-old blogger from Pakistan can survive a bullet to the head and still champion education for her sisters, we can go to the polls and cast a vote. Barak Obama is not a perfect president. He has disappointed on some issues, but he has held strong on the things that count: the health of women and their families, civil discourse around the world, punishment of terrorists, and improved education for all American children. The alternative would be a bullet in the head of women’s human rights, and that would be obscene. Time we exercise our power and secure the future for women and their families.