Nigeria

Cycling Europe Day 48: On Being a Woman – A Drop In the Ocean

I woke up this morning to the horrific news that two girls in India were gang-raped and then hanged. All they had done was go out to the toilet at night. Earlier, I had heard of the Pakistani woman who was killed by her own family for marrying a man against their will. In Sudan, a woman is being charged with apostasy and could face death. She was raised Christian by her mother after her Muslim father left them. She married a Christian man. She was forced to give birth to her child in prison with her legs shackled. In Nigeria, a militant Islamist group kidnapped almost 200 school girls.

There are horror stories every single day involving attacks of men on women in every single country of the world. Attacks range from rape and murder, to sexual, physical, and mental abuse, to sexual harassment at work and on the street.

This morning’s awful news from India made me think about all the measures I’ve taken on this trip to keep safe. I wrote about many of them yesterday. The attacks mentioned above all happened in less developed countries. They just happen to be where the media attention is directed nowadays. I am an independent, strong-minded, strong-willed, well-educated woman cycling alone through “civilized” Europe. Yet I am constantly aware that there is nothing civilized about the attacks that happen on women in Europe everyday. And I am insanely relieved that my husband is joining me now for the rest of the journey, not only because I really miss him, but also because of the safety I feel in his male companionship.

Why are things this way? What has gone so wrong in the minds of enough men to make the world a generally unsafe place for women? Why do some men need to exert dominance over women, whether sexually, physically, or emotionally? What scares them so much about a woman that makes them feel that they must dominate and control them?

I take all the measures I wrote about, yet I know I am relatively safe in Europe. (more…)

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Book Review: Little Bee

I’ve never written a book review before, nor do I know how one should properly be written. But if there’s ever been a book that deserves my time to be reviewed, it’s Little Bee.

I bought Little Bee at San Diego Airport while I was waiting for my plane on my way home to Cairo. I do this frequently, but I rarely end up actually reading the book and if I do, I rarely make it past the first few pages. Air travel exhausts me and serious reading takes a lot of energy out of me.

I read Little Bee throughout the three flights I took to Cairo when I was not sleeping. And I read the remaining few chapters when I got home. I could hardly put it down.

Little Bee is a story about humanity. It is a fictitious story told by two women who are worlds apart. A dramatic event brings the two women together in the midst of a Nigerian oil war. We then watch as they are separated and their stories unfold only to bring them back together more than two years later.

We meet Little Bee as a 16-year-old Nigerian refugee in the United Kingdom. Through her very personal story we get a very human feel for the life of refugees; both before they arrive in their chosen country of refuge and after.

Sarah O’Rourke is the editor of a fashion magazine in London. Sarah yearns for the days when she felt she could save the world.

Little Bee speaks to us in a language she has taught herself so we can understand. She tells us stories about her village in Nigeria in a way that makes it easier to relate. At once, we learn how different life in her village is from ours in our globalized cities and towns, yet how similar the human spirit is no matter where it resides. This concept is magnified by delving into Sarah’s spirit as she navigates through one life-changing event after another.

Little Bee is a story that shows how love, acceptance of one another, and understanding can not only change lives but save them.

The book is written by Chris Cleave, a columnist for The Guardian. Cleave brilliantly embodies the spirits and personalities of many women in this book. He writes as if he was a woman or has delved into their souls. The women in Little Bee come from many countries and backgrounds. He uses their words, their languages, their motions, and their thought-processes in a way one can only do after years of close observation and understanding.

Little Bee was published in 2008 by Simon & Simon Paperbacks, New York, NY. It was originally published in Great Britain by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton.