Poverty: 3-5 Minute Child Chats about Social Justice

20170820_111007.jpgParents and guardians should be brave and create space for conversations with their children about the important topics of our society. We can no longer live in silos nor can we live in silence.

Last month I wrote that I would be sharing ways in which I have conversations with our 7-year-old son about topics related to social justice (and equity, acceptance, helping others, advocacy, etc.). My 1st disclaimer is that we live in a multicultural city in a neighborhood that is multiethnic and multi-income. We have many opportunities for us to engage with our community and have experiences that lend themselves well to discussing social justice. We also travel by car to other states and ask him to observe and ask questions. I am, after all, a social worker with a sociological imagination! My 2nd disclaimer is that we have enough resources to do what we need to do in life and a little bit more. Finally, my 3rd disclaimer is that our son is naturally curious and asks many questions, so it makes these conversations easier to initiate, but him being 7, the conversations end quickly because his attention span is short!

It is difficult for many children to understand poverty. Many parents & guardians do not discuss money with their children. So understanding that not having enough resources is connected to so many institutional and societal factors is complicated. To just say “Well…their parents do not have a job…” is such an insufficient explanation. Such a complicated issue (and the same goes for racism, sexism, disability, homophobia, etc., etc., etc.) require exposure that is consistent and wrapped in age-appropriate conversations that earnestly display your values of equity and justice.

So here are some examples of what we have done so far. What we do is very simple and we hope that as he gets older our experiences and conversations will become more complex and meaningful. I welcome your experiences and questions:

  1. We start with us & him and our & his money:
    1. We tell him how much he has, how much grandpa sent him, etc. We tell him that he has to save, give, and then he can spend a small portion of it.
    2. When it comes to giving, we make suggestions and then let him choose. We do not give online because we want him to have the experience of going somewhere to make the donation in person. It is usually at church, but he has also chosen to give to someone standing on the street corner or give to a jar at the store counter.
      1. “We believe that helping others is important.” “What do you think?” “Do you like it when someone helps you? Do you have an example of a time someone helped you?” “Why is it important to you?” “How do you feel when you help someone else?”
    3. When it comes to spending, we have taught him how to read prices. We talk about not buying more than what you need. We use the word greed (Eric Carle’s Greedy Python can be used in many ways!)
  2. We have served meals through a program that operates out of our church for people with not enough resources. We have done this on a weekend and on Thanksgiving (not as consistently as I would like). We tell our son what we are going to do and explain to him who comes to eat a meal
    1. “Do you know what we are going to do today?” “Do you know why we are going?” “What questions do you have?”
  3. We donate books, clothing, toys, etc. to a local organization and to the school when they collect coats, toys, etc.
    1. “Let’s look at what you have…what can we share with someone who doesn’t have any of this or enough of any of this?” “Can you imagine not having coat/gloves in winter?” “How do you think the child who gets this coat will feel?”
  4. We have conversations about the people we see on the streets holding signs.
    1. He has initiated these conversations. He asks why people stand on the street with signs asking for money. Our responses have varied, but the answer to his questions usually starts something like: “Sometimes people are unable to work and if you are unable to work you probably do not have enough money to pay rent or buy groceries.”  “Sometimes people cannot work because they are disabled…”
  5. Finally, we admit our privilege. We cannot have an honest chat about poverty if we do not talk about our own privilege. It is often uncomfortable, but it is part of what needs to happen.

Remember: 

  1. Keep it simple and short.
  2. Use words, language, and experiences you know your child can understand and handle. Try to relate it back to what they may already know (being helpful, being kind, being fair). AND use a book (some suggestions below).
  3. Do not overwhelm them by trying to do too much or have too many experiences in a short period.
  4. Do not force it. It should happen with the natural context of what you already do. The New Year is a good time to start new habits of justice.
  5. Be consistent and nurture their curiosity and their desire to engage in acts of social justice.

Children’s books related to this topic:

  1. Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt
  2. The family under the bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
  3. Poverty and Hunger by Hanane Kai
  4. On our street: Our first talk about poverty by Jillian Roberts and Jaime Casap
  5. Everybody can help somebody by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

 

 

 

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The Inequitable Intersection of Gender, Nationality, and Socio-Economic Status in Sports

soccerballThe parade is over. The media has moved on to analyzing Serena’s body. The discussion about equity in women’s professional sports was hot and heavy but seems to be waning after the U.S. women’s soccer team won the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Canada. The issue of women’s sports being less valued and less viewed than men’s sports is not a new issue. The 1972 Education Amendments to Title IX have been credited with raising awareness about the issue of equity for women in athletics. According to the last NCAA Gender equity report (2008), more women are participating in athletic programs, but at the college level the amount spent on women’s athletics is still less than, about half (including coaches’ salaries) what is spent on men’s programs. The Title IX legislation is necessary, it is great, and is helping. Title IX however only applies to colleges and universities in the United States. What about the non-collegiate international picture?

I am passionate about issues related to the advocacy, equity, justice, and inclusion of women. As a woman of color I am greatly concerned with the growth and development of women’s teams in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. At the moment based on the number of FIFA affiliated teams and qualifying teams for World Cup, North America and Europe dominate FIFA. Soccer is the third most frequently offered college sports program for women in the U.S. (basketball is first and volleyball is second). According to the Confederation of African Football, Africa has 54 associations/teams affiliated with FIFA. 17 of those nations had women’s teams participate in the 2015 World Cup qualifier tournament. Only the Ghanaian, Nigerian, and Cameroonian women’s teams qualified for the FIFA World Cup and only Cameroon advanced past the first round. In 2014, five African men’s teams qualified to go to the World Cup in Brazil (Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria). Only one African nation has ever hosted a World Cup (South African in 2010) and no African nation has ever won a World Cup tournament.

The Cameroonian women played with great heart! They were the first African women’s team to make it to a FIFA Round of 16 (in 1986 Morocco was the first African men’s team to reach the Round of 16). It is an awesome achievement. Most of the U.S., Canadian, and European women play for U.S. teams, Canadian teams or for the bigger European teams. Of the twenty-three women on the Cameroonian roster only one of them plays in the United States (Ajara Nchout for the Western New York Flash). Four players, including Ngono who scored the first Cameroonian goal in the tournament play in France. The other eight women play in Slovakia, Romania, Russia, Finland, Belarus, and Sweden. From the countries for which the Cameroonian women play only their home country, the U.S., France, and Sweden qualified for the 2015 World Cup. Six Cameroonian women play for teams whose national team did not qualify for the World Cup, four of those teams have never qualified for the World Cup (Slovakia, Russia, Finland, and Belarus). The lack of opportunities for the Cameroonian women to develop their soccer skills and showcase their talents is representative not only of the lack of equity for women in Africa but also of the lack of equity for many women’s and men’s teams in countries without enough resources and socio-political clout to develop further.

FIFA’s website has a tab that links to their development programs described as “…focusing on four main areas of football development – competitions, management, education and promotion. This includes the Live Your Goals campaign launched in 2011 to inspire more young girls and women to get involved in football.”  On paper the development programs’ mission and goals are exactly what needs to be said about the promotion of women athletes.  The same can be said for the FIFA global development programs which provide support for men’s teams also to “improve the state of the sport worldwide”.  However, when the parent organization and some nation affiliates are struggling with corruption, when some of the participating nations’ men’s teams are under-developed, and when the hype of women’s sports victories lasts a week at best how can the Cameroonian women’s soccer team or any other women athletes stand a chance of gaining equity?  What will it take for women and other under-represented populations to gain international athletic opportunities and recognition so that the playing fields can be equal? Who will address the inequitable intersection of gender, nationality, and socio-economic status in international athletics?

I noticed you didn’t “like” my post

News1There has been a lot to write about lately. SO much that I have felt almost frozen and overwhelmed by which topic(s) to blog about. So I wrote the Opinion Piece instead and then posted and re-posted lots of mini opinions on FaceBook about ALL the current events.

You can quickly determine who is like-minded and who is not.

I am not delusional about who my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are and who they are not.

I do not mind agreeing to disagree. This is part of what makes living in the U.S. so nice.

What doesn’t make living in the U.S. so nice is that we each live in some type of privilege that then often leads us to hate on someone else based on our privileged identity (whether that is one identity or many).

Hiding behind one privileged identity and it’s values and morals in order to hate on another group is still discrimination, oppression, and hatred.

I am an equal social justice advocate.  Not all vulnerable and oppressed groups experience discrimination the same. But each vulnerable and oppressed group deserves to live free of fear of oppression and violence. That is true for abused women, infertile women, LGBT families and individuals, folks without enough resources, racial and  ethnic “minorities,” etc., etc., etc.

So, I noticed you didn’t like my posts and that’s o.k. I doesn’t make my passionate advocacy any less, it just assures me that I should be louder until wide-spread justice occurs.

Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month and the theme this year is “Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment.”  I am not a huge fan of celebrating fill-in-the-blank month.  Our identities should be discussed and celebrated daily.  That being said, I have a strong passion for the promotion of girls and women furthering their educational journeys.  Thus, in celebration of the National Women’s History Month theme, I submit the following comments with the disclaimer that I am a female faculty member who occasionally teaches the History of Higher Education and a course focused on social services with women clients – I am a feminist of sorts and am passionate about equity for girls and women across all aspects of society.

Dr. Susan Hockfield’s announcement that she would be stepping down from her post as the sixteenth president and first female president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology got me thinking.  Since women first began enrolling in and graduating from four-year degree granting institutions, a lot of positive movement has occurred for women in higher education.  At the same time a lot of work for the equity of women in colleges and universities still needs to be done.  As an example, Oberlin College which has been one of the most progressive colleges in our nation, admitting women and African Americans before most institutions in this country, did not have a female president until 1994 (Dr. Nancy Schrom Dye), that is 161 years after its founding date!

As a African American female professor I stand on the shoulder of the many women before me who paved the road for women in higher education; and there is still a lot of work to do in promoting the attendance of women in college and promoting their leadership in those institutions.  Currently only six of the twenty-nine public institutions of higher education in Massachusetts are led by women (Bunker Hill Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Middlesex Community College, Salem State University, and Quinsigamond Community College). According to the American Council on Education, approximately 23% of the colleges and universities around the country are led by women.  New England is loosely considered the birthplace of higher education and to have less women than the national average leading our colleges and universities is a shame.  Women (in particular faculty and administrators) are still relegated to the status of a minority (Sociologically speaking as defined by Richard T. Schaefer) on college and university campuses

There are many issues pertinent to women in higher education.  Among those issues are: (a) the number of women enrolled in and graduating from programs in the sciences, technology engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – although increasing, the number is still low. In 2006, 15% of all female first year students planned to major in a STEM field compared with 29% of all male first year students; the highest percentage of females in this category major in the Biological sciences; (b) full-time faculty appointment and fair pay for women faculty – AAUP’s Faculty Gender Equity Indicators report states that women make up 39% of full-timer faculty nationally compared to men who make up 61%; the same report found that “across all ranks and all institutions, the average salary for women faculty was 81% of the amount earned by men”; (c) conditions on campus for working mothers – many campuses do not have private space for lactating mothers, changing rooms for mothers who may need to bring their baby or young child on campus, and many college and university campuses do not have or partner with any type of child care facility; and (d) violence against women on college campuses – while both men and women are victims of sexual assault, women are disproportionately

So who’s working on these issues? Who cares about the status of women on college and university campuses? Anyone who is on a college or university campus should care and should make steps to work on anyone of if not all of these issues.  We should not sit back and wait for AAUW or the AAUP to take action to solve these problems.  Contribute to a scholarship that supports girls majoring in the sciences, math, and/or engineering; write your legislator about supporting pay equity legislation, adequate FMLA; rally campuses to have facilities that support new and working mothers (daycare centers, changing stations, lactation rooms); fight back against cultures of violence against women as promoted by college athletes, fraternities, and/or alcohol use by minors.

As part of national Women’s History Month, contribute to a scholarship that supports girls majoring in the sciences, math, and/or engineering; write your legislator about supporting pay equity legislation and an adequate Family and Medical Leave Act; rally campuses to have facilities that support new and working mothers; and fight back against cultures of violence against women as promoted by college athletes, fraternities and alcohol use by minors.

Women’s voices on college campuses are an important part of this nation’s culture and vitality.  More women in the STEM fields helps the nation be more competitive internationally; equitable appointments and pay for female faculty allows for greater collegiality and productivity; support for working mothers helps to decrease absences and increase morale; and greater safety for women on campus promotes empowerment and creates an environment of mutual respect.

It is incumbent upon all of us, male and female, to take a pledge—not just this month, but on a daily basis—to become more pro-active in supporting gender equity and safety on college and university campuses.