Women’s History Month is a perfect time to talk about women’s issues. It’s important to remember, though, that these issues continue always and are not limited to this month.
How fitting that I was lucky enough to work on Women’s Issues through UMAB (UM Alternative Breaks) this Spring Break. A fabulous group of young UM women and I went to work with an afterschool program for middle and elementary-aged young girls. It is a semester-long program for the self-empowerment of women; we need to be educated. In turn, we need to educate.
It just happened to be that the week we were working there, the girls were learning about one of the most important issues that we all go through and need to learn about, especially us females: puberty and sex.
Now, when you think middle and elementary school girls, you mean eight to 13-year-olds. Young, young girls. Puberty and sex should be relatively new ideas for them.
While there, the first thing we learned is that these girls were anything but unaware. Sex is already surrounding them. The pressure is already on. If left unattended and unexplained, these girls would learn much like many of us did about sex and our bodies: through unreliable, faulty sources that told us not to talk about such things. Like they already felt, they would learn about how taboo these topics are and how embarrassing and dirty our bodies can be.
For a change, this program tries to break things down to what matters and tell girls about what is happening to them, about them, inside them. It’s about them. Their bodies. Themselves.
This leads me to a major epiphany. Our bodies are so important and it seems that so many of us were taught to be afraid of them, grossed out by them, or to think of them as the tools for sin and debauchery. So much about our bodies and our sexuality is defiled and viewed as bad and wrong. It is our humanity. It is such a part of our essence as people and beings. Why does our culture, our tradition, teach us to not appreciate, honor, and respect it? Why do we insist on separating ourselves from our sexuality when it is such a vital part of our humanity, and for females, of our womanhood?
Young girls in our world today, in these generations, should be taught about their bodies unabashedly, with respect and reverence for it, and awe for the wisdom of nature. They should be taught from early on to realize their value and worth in all of themselves so as not to separate the worth of their bodies from the worth of their hearts and souls. Both should be respected, valued, and protected from a healthy standpoint. If girls are taught not to talk or think about their bodies and what they are going through, then they are made vulnerable to the influences of others who will see that weakness and attack it in order to take advantage of it.
If a young girl, however, is taught to look at herself and her womanhood-her power, essence, her strength, her beauty, her ability to create life and be a mother, and the life that flow through her-and admire and respect these things and the vessel that carries them, then she will honor and take care of it, not letting others and herself defile it and abuse it with their carelessness.
We are educated human beings, incredibly lucky and “blessed” to be here, receiving an education-still a rarity and dream for so many. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves about the issues of the world that are still out there in order to go out there and help others. In order to go out there, educate, and empower the women of tomorrow to do the same and do it better.
Bernardita “Beni” Yunis is a junior majoring in communication studies, international studies, and religious studies. She’s kind of a nerd and may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.