In the car the other day, we were listening to a report about a women’s shelter somewhere in the middle east. The woman who runs the shelter was telling the stories of some of the women who’d come to them, desperate and alone. Sometimes, she said, they didn’t get to the women in time. She recounted the story of a young woman who’d gotten pregnant by her lover. Her family had found out and, to uphold their “honour”, her brother had taken it upon himself to kill her and cut her body in pieces. He’d carried her hand with him to proclaim to the community that their family had been cleansed of its sin and that they were honourable once again.

The questions began to flow from the three little listeners in our back seat.

“Did they just say her brother killed her? Why?”
“Did he really cut her hand off?”
“What did they do to the man she slept with? Did he get killed?”
“What about the baby she was pregnant with?”
“Do they ever do that in OUR country?”
“Why are women treated so badly there?”
“Why do they believe men are better than women?”

What do you say to three little girls, who’ve had no reason to believe that their value is any less than that of the boys, that explains the horror of a story like that? How do you say “it’s just not right” without sounding like you’re prejudiced against a whole race of people? How do you make sure they understand that, though things are much different here, we should not become complacent and ignore the plight of the women in places where it is not?

And, perhaps just as importantly, what do we do to help? Because sometimes I feel so helpless.

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